Killing Sites

Gospić

 

Timeline

  • 20 May 1941 - the Ustashi took over the whole block and used it partly as a prison, but mostly as a transit camp
  • Early July 1941 – the Ovcara collective camp was established, about 3.5 kilometres away from the Gospic camp and around 250-300 metres away from the Novcica river’s left bank
  • August 1941 – after Italian reoccupation of the region, both the Gospic and Ovcara camps were dismissed and the remaining inmates killed or transferred to other camps

 

 

Gospic District Court Penitentiary

The older residents of Gospic know the Gospic District Court Penitentiary as the Gericht (German for court). It is a big, two storey, 130x150-metre building. Its wings of are interconnected, enclosing the courtyard with a well in the middle. During the time of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the front, western part of the building was used to house the court, the public attorney's office and the land registry. The other three wings made up the penitentiary. the Italians held the captured officers of the Yugoslav army in the northern part of the building until 20 May 1941, whereupon the Ustashi took over the whole block and used it partly as a prison, but mostly as a transit camp. In the documents, this building is referred to as the Gospic concentration camp. After being held in the district court building, the prisoners were sent to the Jadovno, Slana or Metajna camps. According to Djuro Zatezalo, the camp could accommodate between 2,500 and 3,000 people, but was emptied daily through transfers of prisoners to the Jadovno or Pag camp and filled with new prisoners arriving in transports from all over the Independent State of Croatia. According to witness testimonies and writings of Djuro Zatezalo, torture and abuse of prisoners were carried out daily in the Gospic District Court Penitentiary. The camp commander in Gospic was Stjepan Rubinic, director of the municipal police administration in Gospic while the Gospic penitentiary governor was Milan Staracek.

The Gospic train station collection centre

A large number of detainees were transported every day to the railway station in Gospic. The Ustashi therefore fenced off the space where the loading and unloading of livestock was taking place using wooden fence and a two-metre high barbed wire fence. They could quickly accommodate between 500 and 700 people there. The Ustashi initially used it to register everyone who arrived and divided them by ethnic origin, into Serbs, Jews and Croats. They were there admitted and registered by the Ustasha lieutenant commander Janko Mihalović, administrator for political prisoners in the penitentiary. From there, the prisoners were taken to the Ovcara camp or to the penitentiary premises and a some of them were directly taken to the Jadovno camp or the Pag, Slana and Metajna camps. If the collection centre at the railway station could not accommodate them, or if there was no room in other Gospic collection points (Ovcara and the penitentiary), and it was not possible to organize the evacuation of prisoners into remote camps on Pag or on Velebit, the newly arrived prisoners were taken into individual buildings in the town of Gospic.

The Ovcara concentration camp

In June and early July, numerous transports of prisoners from all over the Independent State of Croatia arrived to the area of Gospic by trains and trucks. The district court penitentiary where the detainees had initially been taken to could not accommodate all newcomers, so another collective camp was established, about 3.5 kilometres away from it and around 250-300 metres away from the Novcica river’s left bank. The Ovcara camp structure included three 30x10 metre stables owned by merchant Matija Maksimovic in which he had kept sheep, cows and horses before the war. The commander of the Ovcara camp as the prisoners themselves referred to it, was Dragutin Pudic Paraliza and the camp was guarded by the Ustashi from the 17th , 22nd  and 23rd of the Ustasha battalions commanded by Juco Rukavina. This camp was established in early July 1941. It covered an area of 80x50 metres enclosed by a 4-metre high barbed wire. The interior was enclosed by a 2-metre high wall and it accommodated the stables owned by Maksimovic. According Zatezalo’s research, within the walled enclosure there were a silo, a tank and concrete dunghill, and outside it, on the north side, a dilapidated apartment building, while the south side accommodated another concrete dunghill. As Djuro Zatezalo wrote, between 1,000 and 1,600 prisoners a day stayed in Ovcara, a number of whom were being taken to do field work. The Ovcara prisoners were brought to the train station in Gospic in trucks or on foot, and from it were taken towards Jadovno or Pag.

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