Killing Sites

Pag

 

Timeline

  • 25 June 1941 - the camp complex on the island of Pag established (located in Slana and Metajna)
  • August 1941 - the Pag camps cease to be in operation following the Italian re-occupation of the area
  • 1975 – a plaque dedicated to the victims is laid at the site of the former Slana camp. The plaque was destroyed during the war in Croatia. It was restored in 2010, but destroyed again after three days

 

 

The Slana and Metajna Camps (Pag island)

The Slana camp was located on a bare cape of Pag, about five kilometres from the village of Metajna. The first group of camp prisoners came to the Slana bay by boat from Karlobag on 25 June 1941. The first group to arrive was that of Jews, followed by detained Serbs and Croats-communists. Ustashi engaged a total of nine ships for the transport. Witness Sime Brnin Marzic from Pag in his 1945 and 1987 testimonies estimated that his father’s boat had been used for 40 days by the Ustashi and that it had transported about 3,000 prisoners to the Slana and Metajna camps. The Slana camp was located on an area of about 5 hectares. On that side of the island, which is exposed to the storms coming from Velebit Mountain, there was no drinking water, no vegetation аnd no conditions to run a camp in cold weather. The first group of camp prisoners slept in the rough. The working task for the camp prisoners was to build a guardhouse for the Ustasha guards and quarters for prisoners, and then the access road to Metajna. They used to work between 10 and 12 hours a day. The prisoners were served linden tea for breakfast and potato soup with two to three beans for lunch and dinner. The prisoners were physically abused during labour and, if they fell from exhaustion, they were beaten and killed to make an example. Hygienic conditions were terrible: the toilets were in the open, 30 meters from the sheds so dysentery broke out shortly. The male camp in Slana was divided into two parts: the Serbian and the Jewish camp. The Jewish camp had three barrack huts, while the Serbian camp had 10. Unlike the Serbs, the Jews received censored mail and some food packages, as related by Dr Oto Radan, one of the survivors of the camp. The Serbs did not have that option. In July 1941, the number of transports to Slana kept increasing and, on 3 July 1941, the camp commander Devcic ordered that a group of 55 elderly people be discharged from Slana. Apparently, according to the testimony of Ustasha Jerko Fratrovic, they were killed somewhere on Velebit. This first group liquidation was followed by further liquidations that usually occurred at night. The Pag residents, especially the fishermen, heard about the executions that had taken place on the rocky plateau and testified about these crimes to the Provincial Commission for the Investigation of the Crimes of Occupiers and their Accomplices. According to estimates of the surviving prisoners, between 200 and 400 people were kept in the Jewish part of the camp and between 800 and 2,000 people in the Serbian part of the camp. Up to 5,000 people could be accommodated in this area, but only some of them could fit under the roof. The women’s camp in Metajna was set up as a special camp. The first group of its prisoners were several Jewish women who had been separated from their husbands imprisoned in the Slana camp. According to Ivo Goldstein, the women prisoners of Metajna were not abused at first as they were used to sew shirts for the Ustasha guards and they could buy groceries from the Metajna locals. In mid-July 1941, a big transport was brought in from Zagreb in which there were 275 Jewish women with children. According to the testimony of Nada Feureisen dating back to 1944, the situation in the camp was deteriorating from day to day, and, after the arrival of a large transport of Serbian women with children, about 600 Jewish women were transported from Metajna to Slana, where the "real torture" started. Older women and mothers were placed in a large barrack hut, and the rest remained outdoors. The Jewish women were being systematically raped, as was also testified by Jose Felicinovic’s diary. He wrote that he had found a card in the Ustasha barracks with the list of women raped in the camp. In July 1941, about 150 soldiers of the Italian border guards were stationed in Pag and Novalja and they knew very well what was happening in Slana and Metajna. Italians managed to protect only some Serbs who lived on the island of Pag, but they failed to protect the prisoners of Slana and Metajna. The situation changed considerably in the first days of August, when an uprising broke out in Lika. Following this, on 16 August, the Italians asked that the Zone B be reoccupied. Because of the panic that broke out in the Ustasha ranks, all the remaining prisoners of the Jadovno camp and most of those from the Slana camp were killed. For security reasons, the Italian army took over full power (civil and military) in Zone B, which included the entire area of the Jadovno-Pag-Velebit camp system. This meant the withdrawal of the Ustasha army and liquidation of the camps on Velebit and Pag. After the announcement of the withdrawal of the Ustasha army from that area, the Slana camp became a real death camp. Most of the prisoners of the Slana camp were killed before the dismantlement of the camp. Around 23 August the camps on Pag and in Gospic were dismantled. Although it was ordered that the camp and all Ustasha be moved from Jadovno and Pag to the area of Jastrebarsko, it seems that only some of the Slana prisoners reached Jastrebarsko. Due to the lack of means of transport, most of the prisoners who were being transported from Slana to Karlobag were killed and thrown into the pits on Velebit (Kijevac near Karlobag, Jasenovac near Krizac bay and Bliznica and Badanj near Stupacinovo). Only 400 prisoners from Pag reached Gospic and they were deported to Jastrebarsko, and then on to Jasenovac, together with another 2,000 prisoners from the Gospic penitentiary and 1,500 from the camp in Ovcara. According to Ivo Goldstein, almost all the Jews detained in Slana who had not been killed there were killed later in one of the camps in the Independent State of Croatia or in Auschwitz and only three Jewish women prisoners and six Jewish men prisoners survived. The Ustasha did not have the time to hide the traces of their crimes in Slana, and there were at least 10 large mass graves from Metajna to the St. Kristofor lighthouse (approximately 10 kilometres away). In September 1941, the Italians sent two sanitary disinfection commissions of the Italian army who photographed the mass graves in Slana and near Karlobag Maline and unearthed 791 corpses from these tombs which they then burned. According to estimates of the Italian crew commander, Captain Bertolli, the death toll was around 4,000. The number quoted by the Pag boatmen is much higher - about 15,000 victims. Emerik Blum, one of the surviving prisoners, said that there were about 10,000 Serbs and about 1,000 Jews killed, while Don Joso Felicinovic believed that there were about 8,000 victims. Ante Zemljar claims that the number of those killed in Slana could be between 8,000 and 13,000. Djuro Zatezalo offers the figure of 8,020 victims in the Slana and Metajna camps. According to estimates by Ivo Goldstein, there were about 1,500 Jews among those killed. Borislav Ostojic and Mihael Sobolevski quoted a figure of 6,000 prisoners as the total number of those killed in the Slana camp and in Baske Ostarije.

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