June 28, 2001

For Immediate Release

Contact: Dr. Bernard Klein, Commission Chairman
Telephone: 718-368-5417 Fax: 718-368-4654

The first meeting of the International Commission on Jasenovac, a historical commission established by scholars from seven nations, was held at Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York in Brooklyn, New York on June 27 and 28 2001. This historic event was hosted by Kingsborough’s President Byron McClenney and by its History Department. Dr. Bernard Klein, Chairman of Kingsborough’s Department of History, Philosophy, and Political Science and a founder of the Commission, has been asked by members of the Commission to serve as its Chairman. These initial deliberations are of a preliminary nature to chart the further course of the Commission and to set an agenda for future multinational efforts by the Commission to resolve and permanently establish the status of Jasenovac among Holocaust scholars and institutions as a genocide camp – one of the last and thorniest unresolved issues of the Holocaust. THE JASENOVAC CONCENTRATION CAMPS, JUNE 27 AND 28, 2001

Michael Berenbaum, the former Research Director of the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, former President of the Shoah Foundation, and a world leading Holocaust scholar was among the Commission’s members participating in this week’s proceedings at Kingsborough. Also participating were scholars from France, Italy and Yugoslavia as well as the United States.

The need to develop an international approach to the many unresolved issues surrounding replica watchesJasenovac was the compelling reason for the creation of the Commission at the Second International Conference on Jasenovac held in Banja Luka in Bosnia in May 2000. Scholars at that conference decided to establish the Commission following discussions on how to further international agreement and cooperation for establishing and recognizing the status of and facts about the crimes committed in World War II fascist Croatia. This decision followed a failed experience to establish a bilateral Commission of Experts between Croatian and non-Croatian scholars at the First International Conference and Exhibition on the Jasenovac Concentration Camps also hosted by Kingsborough Community College and its History Department in October 1997. The efforts of both conferences represented the first efforts ever to de-politicize and internationalize the issue of Jasenovac in the 56 years since the Jasenovac Camps were closed down.

The convening of the International Commission on Jasenovac at Kingsborough this week represents another major historic milestone in the efforts to resolve the long-standing grievances of Jasenovac Survivors and to achieve finally a measure of justice for the victims of these camps.

The Jasenovac Camps were a complex of five major and three smaller “special” camps spread out over 240 square kilometers (150 square miles) in south-central Croatia and connected to dozens of other camps throughout the Independent State of Croatia. From August 1941 to April 1945, hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, and Romas, as well as anti-fascists of many nationalities, were murdered at this death camp complex. While the total numbers of men, women and children killed at the Jasenovac camps complex remains a debated historical question in need of further research, most estimates by historians range from 300,000 to 700,000, including the Croatian War Crimes Commission of 1946.

Following the Nazi invasion and dismemberment of Yugoslavia in April 1941, the “Independent State of Croatia” was established as a pro-Nazi government. It was dedicated to a clerical-fascist ideology influenced both by Nazism and extreme Roman Catholic fanaticism. On coming to power, the Ustashe Party dictatorship in Croatia quickly commenced on a systematic policy of mass murder of all Serbs, Jews, Romas and anti-fascists living within its borders. Thus, the resolution of the status of Jasenovac involves several categories of victims, each representing their own particular dimensions of the Holocaust in the Balkans and each presenting their own specific issues.

Along with hundreds of thousands of Serbs, some 25,000 Jews and at least 30,000 Romas were murdered in these camps. Roma historians argue that the numbers of Romas killed are vastly underestimated. The categories of victims at Jasenovac also include thousands of Slovenian, Croatian and Muslim anti-fascists as well as members of many other nationalities. Also the special religious dimension of the Holocaust in Croatia requires consideration of Orthodox Christians as a special category of victims at Jasenovac. The names of some 20,000 murdered children of all three nationalities collected thus far provides a hint of the scale and nature of the crimes committed there. Jasenovac is also known for having been one of the most barbaric death camps of the Holocaust for the extreme cruelty in which its victims tudor replica watcheswere tortured and murdered.

But despite the scale of the crimes committed there, most of the world has never heard of Jasenovac. Perhaps more disturbing still, Jasenovac has not achieved full recognition as a World War II Concentration Camp by some of the leading Holocaust institutions. This withholding of recognition has cruelly impacted the Yugoslav Survivor community, both Survivors and victims’ descendants. Not only are they deprived of eligibility for compensation from reparations agreements such as the Claims Conference in Germany, but they also understandably feel forsaken and victimized by international agencies.

The Commission meetings explored a number of crucial issues and proposals for dealing with them. Among these were the obtaining of international status and recognition of Jasenovac; the initiation of investigations of the mass grave sites of Jasenovac at Donja Gradina using remote sensing technology; pursuing reparations for Jasenovac victims from all nationalities and further litigation seeking compensation; renewing war crimes indictments against living Jasenovac camp commanders and officials such as Dinko and Nada Sakic; securing international protection for the entire Jasenovac memorial site under UNESCO “World Heritage” statutes; and the status and fate of archives and artifacts from Jasenovac, including the controversial transfer of a large archive from Bosnia last November. The Commission recognized that the fate of these important archives and artifacts is of great concern. The commission made arrangements to pursue these matters through governmental channels and agreed to meet again following the completion of these inquires.

The Jasenovac camps were not only largest system of genocide camps in fascist Croatia, but in fact they were the largest in the entire fascist occupied Balkans region. They represent by far the greatest crimes of genocide ever committed in Southeastern Europe. The lasting significance of the work of the Commission in part lies with this fact and its centrality to any discussion of human rights, warcartier replica watches crimes or crimes of genocide in the Balkans region — past, present or future.