Serbian Holocaust

Bogdan Petković,
April 18, 2010, Jasenovac

Bogdan Petković, then a 21 year old man, survived 135 days in the Jasenovac death camp concealing the fact that he was a Serb. In February 1945 he was deported to Germany, avoiding  terrible killings Ustashas commited attempting to erase the traces of their own crimes of genocide.

Interviewer: Nada Ljubić | Camera: Dušan Gavrilović | Editing: Nada Ljubić, Dušan Gavrilović | Trancript: English: Nada Ljubić, Serbian: Tanja Damjanović| Webmastering: Dusan Gavrilović

Voices of Survivors

English rendition of the interview, paraphrased and abridged:

I am Bogdan Petkovic, former Jasenovac inmate. I entered the logor [concentration camp] as a partisan prisoner of war. I arrived on October 5th of 1944, and left Jasenovac on February 18, 1945, deported to forced labor in Germany. I spent 135 days in Jasenovac -135 days!

-How old were you then?

I was 21...before I came to Jasenovac, I had some idea about it, but I could not believe [the stories]... When I was captured, I presented myself as Croat and Catholic, even though I was a Serb Orthodox Christian. I can say that I saved my life that way. I entered Jasenovac wearing a German uniform, Italian military boots, and Yugoslav army overcoat. The Ustashas thought me to be a Domobran (NDH Croat Army troops) since, at that time, there were also some Domobrans in the camp. It was good for me to be thought to be a Domobran. I was beaten up twice because of my uniform. Then, one inmate, Janko Pal, who unfortunately did not survive Jasenovac, warned me that I would be beaten up all the time because of my German uniform. So he went to the Krpara and changed my German shirt for a peasant’s woolen jacket.

-What was this Krpara?

It was the warehouse where they kept all the clothing belonging to inmates who had already been killed... It was a warehouse, and from there clothing was transported to Oroslavlje, as I learned later. In Oroslavlje, there was a textile factory in operation.

-Have you witnessed the sufferings of other people?

I have. I witnessed suffering. Immediately upon my arrival in logor, a public nastup was ordered

-What was a nastup?

When the Ustashas lined-up all the inmates of camp in order to execute some of them, it was called nastup. They lined us up in front of barracks. There were gallows there. They hanged 3 inmates. Sergeant-major Lisac read the verdict... I stood in line, angry. The first man reached the bench under the gallows saying, "Farewell, comrades!" The second inmate said, "Farewell, people." Then Sergeant-major Lisac called out, "Why don't you say: Goodbye, Stalin?"
...About a month after...all the Serbs brought in from Zagreb disappeared, at least from my group, and I was in a construction group. I witnessed when the clerk, Djuro, came to take Mane Polovina after dinner while the inmates were going to sleep. Mane Polovina was a peasant from Lika wearing a lamb skin jerkin. Mane had attempted escape from the camp, but the Ustashas caught him...the next day at roll- call, Mane Polovina was not there any more.
...a day or two after that, they took Ahmet Kapetanovic. He was also a captured partisan, we were together in camp infirmary, we were captured in the same group... After a few days I saw Ahmet again in the camp. He was an electrician, and some Ustasha apprentice that worked with him, saved his life...he was already undressed, when the crew boss ordered him to dress himself and to go to change the bulb on a light pole... After that, Kapetanovic would not to talk to anyone. When he saw me once, he said, "Run, get away from me. I do not know anyone any more." Kapetanovic and I were deported to Germany together, and he also came back alive.

-In which logor were you?

We were near Lienz. When we arrived there, it was late February. We spent a month in quarantine because of typhoid. In April we were assigned to work near Lienz.

-In agriculture or in factories?

-I worked for the steel industry Herman Goering Eisenwerk for a month, until the Americans liberated us. After Liberation, we Jasenovac inmates, gathered ourselves from all of the camps in the Lienz vicinity, organized ourselves and returned together to our homeland. We arrived in Zagreb about May 25.

-Do you remember the violence before you joined partisans?

Yes. Yes. In April 1941...all of us, all Serbs were ordered to stay at home...Two days later, all men age 16-65 were ordered to forced labor, to repair the road in Klostar-Ivanic, a part of the old Zagreb-Belgrade road. We worked for 3 days there... Some women went to see a German Commander in Bjelovar. It seems that he prevented further mass executions. After tree days we returned home, and later we heard what had happened in Gudovac. It was the first mass killing... The mass arrest in Grubisno Polje was the first of its kind. Two days later was Gudovac, the first mass killing in Croatia.

-How many people were killed in Gudovac, in your opinion?

I have a book written by Professor Bjelovitic... between 196 and 200 people, but the exact number is unknown.

-Were you surprised after the war when you saw that there was no trace left of Jasenovac logor?

In 1963 I came to Jasenovac for the first time since the war. I was with my wife and my son, it was Fighter’s Day, July 4. The whole camp was overgrown with grass. The farmers mowed the grass and created access to the remnants of the once Ustasha camp... The women from Potrkozarie and Slavonia came there to light candles, to mourn for their loved ones. I was very disappointed when I saw that only one tool-shed remained of the whole Ustasha logor .
It was there then, but later even this tool-shed was gone.

-Have you noticed any changes in the approach to the history of this place?

Yes. It is changing. Soon after the war, a day before the commemoration, the poets, writers, the youth...used to gather. They read their writings here, sailed on the river in boats, singing and playing the music...and the next day the mothers would arrive to weep.
I disagreed with that. Whose scenario it was, I do not know, but it was inappropriate for such a terrible place.

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