Jasenovac was the largest concentration and extermination camp in Croatia and the third largest in WWII. Jasenovac was in fact a complex of several subcamps, in close proximity to each other, on the bank of the Sava River, about 62 miles (100 km) south of Zagreb. The complex included Sisak, a camp for children, and a women’s camp called Stara Gradiška. Miroslav Filipovic-Majstorovic, the commandant of the camp, was a Franciscan monk.
Jasenovac was established in August 1941 and was dismantled only in April 1945. The creation of the camp and its management and supervision were entrusted to Department III of the Croatian Security Police (Serbo-Croatian Ustaška Narodna Služba: UNS), headed by Vjekoslav (Maks) Luburic, who was personally responsible for everything that happened. Some six hundred thousand people were murdered at Jasenovac, mostly Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and opponents of the Ustasa regime. The number of Jewish victims was between twenty thousand and twenty-five thousand, most of whom were murdered there up to August 1942, when deportation of the Croatian Jews to Auschwitz for extermination began. Jews were sent to Jasenovac from all parts of Croatia from Zagreb, from Sarajevo, and from other cities and smaller towns. On their arrival most were killed at execution sites near the camp: Granik, Gradina, and other places. Those kept alive were mostly skilled at needed professions and trades (doctors, pharmacists, electricians, shoemakers, goldsmiths, and so on) and were employed in services and workshops at Jasenovac. The living conditions in the camp were extremely severe: a meager diet, deplorable accommodations, a particularly cruel regime, and unbelievably cruel behavior by the Ustaše guards. The conditions improved only for short periods during visits by delegations, such as the press delegation that visited in February 1942 and a Red Cross delegation in June 1944.
The acts of murder and of cruelty in the camp reached their peak in the late summer of 1942, when tens of thousands of Serbian villagers were deported to Jasenovac from the area of the fighting against the partisans in the Kozara Mountains. Most of the men were killed at Jasenovac. The women were sent for forced labor in Germany, and the children were taken from their mothers; some were murdered and others were dispersed in orphanages throughout the country. On the night of August 29, 1942, bets were made as to who could liquidate the largest number of inmates. Father Petar Brzica, a Catholic priest, cut the throats of 1,360 prisoners with a especially designed butcher's knife (called "srbosjek" or Serb-cutter). Having been proclaimed the prize-winner of the competition, he was elected King of the Cut-throats. A gold watch, a silver service, and a roasted sucking pig and wine were his other rewards.
At the last moment, in January, 1945, more than 50,000 prisoners who were able to walk were led from the camp. In April 1945 the partisan army approached the camp. The Ustasha attempted to erase traces of the atrocities. The Ustasha camp of death Jasenovac, worked at full capacity all the way to the end of April, 1945. Before leaving the camp, the Ustasha killed the remaining prisoners, blasted and destroyed the buildings, guard-houses, torture rooms, the "Picili Furnace" and the other structures. Upon entering the camp, the liberators found only ruins, soot, smoke, and dead bodies. An escape attempt by the prisoners failed, and only a few survived.
The National Committee of Croatia for the investigation of the crimes of the occupation forces and their collaborators stated in its report of November 15, 1945 that 500,000-600,000 people were killed at Jasenovac complex. Up to 1997, the Belgrade Museum of the Holocaust has gathered some 77,743 names of Jasenovac victims.