Sisak children's concentration camp
Sisak children's concentration camp officially called "Shelter for Children Refugees" was a concentration camp during World War II located in Sisak, set up by the Ustaše government of the Nazi-puppet state, the Independent State of Croatia, for Serbian, Jewish and Romani children. It was part of the Jasenovac extermination camp.
During the existence of Independent State of Croatia, the Croatian Ustaše established numerous concentration camps like those in Jasenovac, Đakovo, and Jastrebarsko in which many Serbian, Jewish and Romani children died as inmates.
In Sisak, near the town of Jasenovac, Sisak-Moslavina County in Croatia, the Ustaše presence was vigilant. Early in 1942, the local synagogue was looted and destroyed, and the building turned into a worker's hall. The settlers of Sisak were quickly brought to Ustaše attention, and those of them who were Serbian or Jewish were tormented. One example is Miloš Teslić, a Serb whose eyes were cut out, arms sawn off, chest burned with a hot iron, and heart cut out.
The concentration camp was opened on 3 August 1942 following the Kozara Offensive. It was part of an assembly camp, officially named the "Refugee Transit Camp",. The concentration camp at Sisak was officially called "Shelter for the refugee children," under the auspices of the "Ustasha Female Lineage" and "Ustasha Security Service", and under the direct control of Dr Antun Najžer, a physician. The camp was located in several buildings in Sisak: the former Yugoslav Falconry Association (the so-called "Sokolana"), the Sisters of St. Vincent nunnery, the saltwork Rice warehouse, the Rajs Saltworks warehouse, the Novi Sisak elementary school and the so-called "Karantena" (Quarantine). All these buildings were totally unsuitable for housing children. For example, in the Falconry association, there were no doors; it was drafty because the whole construction was set up for drying salt. Children, even the smallest ones who were only a few months old, had to lie on the floor with only a thin layer of straw, with no clothes or blankets.
The first group of children arrived on 3 August 1942; there were 906 of them. The very next day another group of 650 children came; the third group, which arrived on 6 August, had 1,272 children. In the Teslić glasshouse and the newly-built barracks, "Karantena", a general concentration camp for men, women, and children had been created. During August and September, 1942, Ustaše housed 3,971 children at Sisak, children whose parents had been selected for forced labor in Nazi Germany. From August, 1942, to 8 February 1943, a total of 6,693 children were imprisoned at the Sisak camp, mostly Serbian children from Kozara, Kordun, and Slavonia. When a typhus epidemic broke out, Najžer ordered the transfer of the infected children to the improvised hospital, which, however, increased mortality among the children.
Testimony of Jana Koh, the Croatian Red Cross secretary that time:
The barracks were connected by the corridors guarded by the Ustashas. Not far from the ambulance, from another barracks, the sad cries of the children were heard. There was set, on the bare floor, four hundred children: newborns, children from a few weeks or months, up to ten years of age. How many children came, and where they were dispatched, could no longer be found out. The children in the children's barracks cried inexorably and were calling their mothers, who were only a few steps away from the children, but the fascist criminals did not let mothers to approach their children. Older children tell us through tears, that they can not calm the little ones, because they are hungry, there are no one to change diapers of the little ones, and they are afraid that everyone will die. These children, who have not yet reached the age of ten, swear to us, "Come on, sister, bring us mothers, bring at least mothers to these little ones. You will see, if you do not bring them their mothers, they will suffocate, by the tears alone."
Testimony of Lazar Marguljes, a physician from Osijek, Croatia:
I've noticed that the Zagreb Red Cross food shipments were never handed out to the children. By conducting medical examination of the children, I often visited these places: the unfinished Sokols home, in which the children were lying on a bare concrete floor or, at best, to a little straw. In the so-called Hospital, in a small school in Old Sisak, in which there were no beds, the children were lying on the floor with some strawn and contaminated straw, clad in bloody feces and covered with swarms of flies. The children were naked and barefoot, without blankets. When the typhoid fever broke out in Sokols home, physician Najžer ordered that the infected children be transferred to the so-called Hospital, in which there was no infection, what has caused a mass death of the children there.
The children's camp (described as a camp for "upbringing and re-education") in Sisak was established upon Pavelic's orders  and operated for five months, from August, 1942 to January, 1943. As mentioned above, 6,693 children passed through its gates, out of which records say between 1,152 and 1,630 died. It was the only concentration camp in Europe for children. The children, of Serbian, Roma, and Jewish origins, aged between 3 and 16, were housed in abandoned stables, riddled with filth and pests. Malnutrition and dysentery seriously impaired the children's health. They were fed daily a portion of thin gruel and treated horribly by the Ustaše guards. "Witnesses recount seeing an Ustashe soldier pick up a child by the legs and smash its head against a wall until it was dead, ..."
Humanitarians managed to move 2,200 children from the camp to Zagreb. Families from Sisak and surrounding villages took from the camp and sheltered 1,630 children; and 1,691 children were returned to their families after the war.
After the war
After the war, those people who had survived concentration camps and returned from Germany started searching for their children. The records kept at the camp, with information about each child, were maintained by Diana Budisavljević and were moved from the camp to Zagreb during the war. There were some 30,000 records about these children in the files. These files were confiscated by Yugoslav OZNA and the public were not allowed access to them.
On the Reis saltworks building a memorial plaque was erected for the children who died in the camp - in 1958. In the early 1990s this memorial plaque was destroyed. A monument dedicated to the children imprisoned in the camp was erected nearby the Sisak Cultural Center and a commemorative plaque erected on the Center building. This commemorative plaque was also destroyed in the early 1990s. The camp children's cemetery was landscaped in 1974 and a monument erected. Today the cemetery is not maintained and in a ruined state. On the monument it is recorded that the cemetery contains 2,000 children's graves.
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