Madam envoy of the President of the Republic of Croatia, your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, good day.
Mr President of the Republic of Serbia, consecrated Bishop, honourable fathers, brothers and sisters, God bless you!
I greet you on behalf of the Association of Citizens Jadovno 1941 from Banja Luka, an association of descendants and supporters of the victims of the complex of Ustasha camps Gospić 1941.
Today with us we have scientists from Israel, Italy, United States of America, Russia, Croatia, and Serbia, to whom we owe gratitude for their time and effort they made in order to verify the truth about the suffering in Jadovno in a manner appropriate for the historical science.
I extend a special greeting to Italian Senator Mr Aimone Finestra, a witness and participant of a noble action of the Italian army, which closed the complex of concentration camps Gospić in late August 1941 and saved more than 2000 inmates from certain death, mostly Jewish women and children.
I am very grateful to all those who supported our initiative and enabled a memorial service for the Jadovno martyrs to be held and Jadovno 1941 Remembrance Day to be marked for the second year in the row.
I would like to remind you that we are next to the Šaranova Pit, one of 33 registered bottomless pits of Velebit and its foothills where Ustashas in 1941 threw alive or partly alive victims. The victims, tormented with long walks and beating, were brought before those karst abysses and ravines tied with wire in double line. Ustashas would hit the first two or four with a hammer or mallet over their heads and threw them headlong into the pit, and they would drag others with the weight of their bodies.
For days one could hear groans and cries from the pits, and only few managed to get out of the abysses alive.
The karst pits were just a part of the elimination centre, the complex of Ustasha camps with the centre in the penitentiary of the Gospić County Court at the time.
Along with the “Gericht” (Court), this complex consisted of the collection point at the railway station, the camp in Maksimović stables, so-called Ovčara, camp Stupačinovo near Baške Oštarije, the camp for Serbs and the camp for Jews in the Slana Bay at the island of Pag and the camp for women and children in the village of Metajna on Pag, which was the first camp for women and children in the Second World War. In the sea of the Velebit Channel and the Pag Strait, the victims were murdered by tying a rock around their necks with wire, after which the executioners would kick them in the neck or chests and cut open their bellies so that the body would not float out and threw them headlong in the blue tomb.
If the sea is a blue tomb, the Šaranova Pit, just as other known and unknown karst pit of Velebit certainly are not. They are the pits still holding the remains of our family members on their floors.
According to the results of long-year research by Dr Đuro Zatezalo, in the area of the complex of Ustasha camps Gospić, just in 132 day Ustashas murdered no less than 40,123 victims, of them 38,010 Serbs, 1,998 Jews, 88 Croats, 11 Slovenians, 9 Muslims, 2 Hungarians, 2 Checks, 1 Russian, 1 Roma and 1 Montenegrin.
The people murdered here in 1941 were not victims of the anti-fascist struggle! They were taken from their centuries-old homes, tortured and murdered just for being Orthodox Serbs, Jews or unacceptable elements for the NDH.
Without discussing whether the Republic of Croatia is or is not a legal descendant of the Independent Stat of Croatia, it is undeniable that on its territory there are sites of mass crime, that the victims of the crime have not been exhumed, identified and buried, and that very few criminals have been named and indicted.
It is shocking that requests by Serbian and Jewish organisations to have a legally prescribed attitude towards sites and victims of crimes are being ignored.
Moreover, sites of mass crimes, some of them even registered Memorial Sites, for years have been skilfully concealed and left to deteriorate.
In the area of the Memorial Site of Camp Slana on the island of Pag, where Italian soldiers in September 1941 exhumed, cremated and buried under rock the ashes of 793 bodies of victims, of them 293 women and 91 children age 5 to 14, tourists enjoy the sun and the sea, not knowing what happened on that location. The one Memorial Plaque which testified the martyr death of no less than 8,020 victims murdered at and around the Slana Bay, disappeared two days after being renewed last year. Not only that the perpetrators were not found, not only that the plaque has not been renewed, but a visit to Slana was not in today’s programme.
Commemorations at the registered Memorial Site of Camp Jadovno, about 4 kilometres from here are constantly being avoided.
Few monuments that were raised by 1991 were destroyed in the last war.
If in the nineties there was really, as they say, the continuation of the anti-fascist struggle from the Second World War, would these monuments have been destroyed?
Would the descendants of the victims come here from abroad, with the largest number of them living in the Republic of Serbia and Republika Srpska?
Today, over the whole area of the former complex of Ustasha camps Gospić 1941, besides the Memorial Plaque at the Šaranova Pit renewed last year and this renewed monument revealed today, there are no other memorials saying that a terrible crime happened there in the summer of ’41.
How else to interpret such attitude than as an open cover-up of the crime?
We, as the descendants of the victims have a legitimate right to request the authorities of the Republic of Croatia to have a decent and legally defined attitude towards the crime sites and victims, members of our families.
As long as the attitude is such as it is today, there is no room for mutual trust, and especially for developing friendly relationships.
President of AC Jadovno 1941