Police Report on the Cleansing of Serbs Near Slunj
One of the most frank and shocking accounts of Ustase "purification" in action, this document contains a forwarded report written by a Croatian police commander from Slunj. According to the commander, Ustase units stormed into the area and began slaughtering civilians wholesale in "retaliation" for suspected sabotage by Communist guerrillas. Notable is the commander's plaintive cry of horror that the Ustase not only slaughtered those who had done everything possible to please the new authorities, but attacked the women, children, elderly and infirm from the nearby villages deliberately, often with an eye toward looting the wealthier citizens' property. The officer uses the word ciscenje ("cleansing") to refer to the operation, and even coins a new term, ciscenici, for those viciously attacked during the operation. The term "ethnic cleansing" would return to general usage in the 1990s in the very same territory described below, though it has been characterized as a Serbian invention in the lexicon of modern language. Events described in this report are also described by a group of Slovenes in a letter to General Glaise von Horstenau, and in this Interior Ministry document also from the NDH Archives. The concluding portion of this report has never been located. All emphasis - quotation marks and capitalization - is as in the original, as is the officer's ideosyncratic style.


Number: 484/j-S.

Report on general situation in the
zone of the regiment, in consideration of
Communist-Chetnik activity.


Dordiceva St, No. 4

Zagreb, 16th of August 1941.

Commander of the police platoon in Slunj, in report Number 89 of 13th of August 1941, reports the following:

"Until the 27th of July of this year conditions were still satisfactory considering the blow for the Serbian population, which they got by the foundation of Independent State of Croatia. A large number of them had already been reconciled with their fate. Many had already asked to convert to Catholicism. It is true that most of them didn't do that out of conviction, but if the goals of real Chetniks were fulfiled - these Serbs who convert to Catholicism would be exposed to even greater danger than the Catholics themselves, because they would be marked as traitors not only nationally but also religiously, therefore it could be concluded that they had good intentions. More importantly, most of them wouldn't act against the state, on the contrary they would in their own benefit work for its preservation.

"The sabotage of railroad tracks in the district Vojnic on the 27th and 30th of July of this year was the work of Communists, and the idea came from Communists from Karlovac, while the execution of these actions was confided to domestic people, but of Communist disposition. The Serbian population was scared knowing that the blame will fall on them as a community, even though the vast majority of them knew nothing of this, and didn't want it to happen. This may not be out of love for the state of Croatia but in their own benefit, because they knew they would be the ones to pay for this.

"As of the 29th of July of this year the 'cleansing' [ciscenje] by Ustase had begun. This caused panic within Serbian population so that they all ran to the forests in fear of being cleansed [ciscenjem]. That lasted until the 8th of August of this year, but the last few days they failed, because the people knew the real situation and were hiding in the forests. They were in a state of general fear. From a psychological point of view, out of crawling and covardice, but from a different point of view, from a beastial bitterness.

"The work of the Ustase was among other things non-tactical, because they cleansed the less dangerous and least responsible people like many old men, women and children of the youngest age, while those with dark conscience, young and stronger fled to the forests. Described in a single sentence: 'NON-FIGHTERS WERE CLEANSED, AND FIGHTERS STAYED IN THE FORESTS'. The more naive ones and those with a clear conscience didn't even run away at first, because they thought no harm will come to them.

"The cleansing operation is completely achieved in Slunj and effectively around Slunj, while in more remote places there was little success.

"The present condition cannot be specified with exact data because the remaining people are still in the forests, but it is certain that a large number of families lost a member.

"The planning for the Ustase cleansing was almost public, which is one of the main reasons that people hid in the forests. They 'cleansed' in houses, yards, on roads, in the presence of parents, children or vice versa. They plundered houses and property of people in such way that they competed among themselves over who will get a wealthier house and who will be the one to cleanse a wealthier man. During the last cleansing, they took clothing, there were disputes among Ustashe because of that. There was carousing, savage scenes during the 'cleansing' of a child in a cradle, old people, whole families together, sadistic delight in the most horrid tortures before the final cleansing. These kinds of actions caused disfavour even among the honorable and fair Croats and whispers were heard: 'THIS IS DISGRACE FOR THE CROAT PEOPLE, CULTURE AND THE CATHOLIC FAITH.' The pits were mostly dug earlier. There were cases, that 'the ones to be cleansed' [ciscenici - literally, "cleansees" -Ed.] carried the tools for digging pits themselves and the like. The burial of people barely alive, leaving the dead unburied or poorly buried, so that their relatives and the ones who fled to the forests came to see them.

"All this caused fear among people, but also such bitterness that there cannot be even a thought about reconciliation. Even if there were some conditions there could still be a possibility, but there were no conditions here and to this day there still aren't any.

"I - like all policemen in general - was completely powerless. Everything was done without our knowledge and with great distrust towards us. If I would say anything, even insignificant, they would threaten my life, directly or indirectly, there were even words: 'Now it's the policemen's turn.'

"Maybe the main reason for distrust towards policemen was that they didn't stand out in the cleansing even if they favoured it. I explained to the same, that we are an organ of authority and that we have to preserve the reputation of the state. Among the Croatian population (many of them) there was also noted a disfavour for this kind of cleansing operation, because it was known that many who were cleansed didn't do any harm to Croats, on the contrary they were despised by earlier regimes exactly because of that reason, because they favoured Croats. These people would have been useful now, because through them, those who fled could be influenced.

"The order came to stop the cleansing and that the people should be called to return to their homes by policemen, the people were called and we are trying to achieve that, but we have had relatively poor success. They've lost all confidence, but then again they had a horrible reason to run to the forest and every one of them is aware of the fact that with just a single mistake (by returning) they could lose everything. Again I would like to point out that a complete return from the forests will hardly succeed.

"There were cases when policemen asked: 'Why are you running away?' The reply was: 'I am running away, sir, to live half an hour longer.' In some houses there were left children alone, even for just one week, in another, an old man alone. Scenes like this are common. Fruits are mostly ruined and the cattle suffered much if they stayed indoors. A lot of cattle were taken away and stolen. Some fugitives claim, even if they would return, to whom would they return and to what would they return.

"These people would have accepted everything: expulsion, concentration camps, forced labor, conversion to Catholicism, but not to be cleansed, and they would have liked best if they could stay at home and become whatever it is required of them to become (this of course not all of them, but the majority). The conversion to Catholicism would be most successful through missionaries, because in that way they would have converted with conviction.

"Today, when cleansing began in the Vojnic district, the Italian army was leaving Vojnic, and there were cases that when passing by they told the people: 'Run Serbs, Ustashe are coming and they slit everyone's throats.'

"The situation concerning Communist-Chetnik actions from station to station in the area of this district is as follows:

"SLUNJ: The number of them is negligible, because most of them were cleansed, and the rest of them are harmless and returning to their homes. There is no danger from the domestic ones, and the outsiders will probably not react. Patrols are moving undisturbed throughout the area.

"RAKOVICA: There was not a single event. Policemen have a lot of influence on the people and they are returning to their homes. The cleansing is mostly over, but not completely.

"NOVA KRSLJA: The same situation as in Rakovica.

"PRIMISLJE: In the area of this station there were several attacks on policemen, and on the 7th of August of this year policeman Luka Perkovic was murdered and Mate Stankic was wounded. Part of this area is somewhat cleansed, and the rest are in the forests and only few have returned home. Police patrols are not safe in villages if they are of lesser strength. In the forests there are larger groups, and there are probably some of them from the Plaski area. Catholic settlements are in danger. If the return is not successful, the situation will be more critical.

"VELJUN: In the area of this station the most critical condition for now is in Slunj district. The population is mostly of the Greek religion. The most dangerous place is between Veljun and Cvijanovic Brdo. In this area there are larger groups of armed people, and there are probably some of them even from Krstinja. In this area there were 3 attacks on police patrols and teachers Ivan Sajfar and Martinic have been taken away. Patrols of policemen cannot go to this area without fear for their lives.

"CETINGRAD: The area of this station borders with the stations from Krstinja and V. Kladusa, so the situation is never safe even though nothing is happening for now. Patrols from this station cannot go into some villages of this area, because fugitives are in power there.

"PERJASICA: There were no significant events, but the population there fled as well. The policemen have good influence with them and they are gradually returning.

"KRSTINJA: The situation in the area of this station is the most critical. The army barracks was attacked for several days in such way that there was no contact with it for 5 days. Now it is mostly liberated, but the situation is still critical. Patrols cannot move through villages at all, and all people are in the forests, or in their villages, but when the authorities come in greater strength, they run to the forests.

"VOJNIC: The same situation as in Krstinja station, except that there were no attacks on army barracks.

"KRNJAK: The population is all of the Greek religion. Most of them are fugitives, but some are returning with distrust. Situation is critical even though there were no significant events.

"VUKMANIC: There have been frequent sabotages of the railroad tracks and also hand grenades have been thrown at the post office in Tusilovac. This was the work of Communists from Karlovac. Like in other places, the people are fugitives, but police patrols are still in contact with those who are at home.

"In the area of this headquarters (districts Slunj and Vojnic) 350 army rifles with the necessary quantity of ammunition were given to endangered Croatian villages for defence. This could be good on the one hand, but dangerous on the other, if Chetniks attack them and disarm them and in that way get the weapons they need. The weapons were given on request of Ustashe station in Slunj. Besides this, a large number of hunting rifles were given to people..."

[further text in the original is missing]


:: filing information ::
Title: Police Report on the Cleansing of Serbs Near Slunj
Source: Archive of the NDH, quoted in Zlocini: Na Jugoslovenskim Prostorima u Prvom i Drugom Svetskom Ratu, Zbornik DokumenataVol 1. Translated by Sinisa Djuric.
Date: August 16, 1941 Added: December 2002
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