The Serbian Museum of Genocide Victims said it has found a list dating back to 1942 giving details of 5,800 Serbian children who were rescued from detention in camps run by the Croatian fascist Ustasa movement.
The Serbian Museum of Genocide Victims said on Friday that it has obtained a list with the names and details of 5,800 Serbian children rescued from Ustasa death camps in the Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia, which was thought to have been lost or destroyed.
Museum director Dejan Ristic told media in Belgrade that the list was compiled in the second half of 1942 by Croatia-based Austrian humanitarian activist Diana Budisavljevic, who worked on behalf of children in the camps where Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascists were held during World War II.
Ristic said that the list was created at the Institute for Deaf Children in Zagreb during the course of Budisavljevic’s humanitarian activities and was presented to the public for the first time on Friday, Bosnian Serb entity news agency SRNA reported.
He explained that list contains the names and surnames of the children, their parents, the date and name of the camp from which they were rescued, as well as the age and identity of their Croatian adoptive parents. The list was thought to have disappeared during World War II, he added.
“Now, for the first time, we can offer living children, who are now old people and who are still searching for their identity, as well as their descendants, information about their real identity,” Ristic said.
Budisavljevic, an Austrian married to a Croatian doctor, used her connections with the remains of the Jewish and Serb communities in Zagreb, but also with Nazi and Ustasa functionaries and Catholic Church dignitaries, to organise the distribution of food and clothes to malnourished women and children in Ustasa camps.
However, the aid was usually stolen by the authorities before any of the prisoners received it.
After many of the mothers captured in the Ustasa’s ‘pacification campaigns’ were transferred to Germany to work as slaves – including as sex slaves – their children were left alone in the camps.
Photo: Facebook/Музеј жртава геноцида.
During the summer of 1942, Budisavljevic organised a campaign to save the children from the camps.
Using her status as the citizen of the Reich, she pleaded with the Church and local authorities to take responsibility for the child internees. This led to further transfers out of the camps and finally to a campaign of adoption.
According to her diary, the post-World War II Communist authorities took away her entire archive in May 1945.
Ristic explained that the Museum of Genocide Victims obtained the list last year but did not disclose how.
“It was outside national territory and was brought to national territory,” he said.
It is estimated that tens of thousands of children were interned in various camps in Croatia during WWII, sometimes with their mothers, sometimes alone.
The camps were run mostly by the Ustasa movement, although one of them, Lobor, was under the control of the local ethnic German members of the Nazi party.
The Serbian Museum of Genocide Victims is a state institution, founded in 1992 “for the permanent remembrance of the victims of the genocide committed against the Serbs”, focusing on World War II.