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What Happened at Jasenovac?

According to United States Holocaust Memorial Museum records, Jasenovac was not just one big camp but a cluster of five detention centers established by the Ustasa-supported government of the "Independent State of Croatia" during World War II. Collectively, the Jasenovac facility was huge -- the third-largest detention camp in Europe -- and it was infamous for its deplorable living conditions, unspeakable torture methods, and mass killings. Between 1941 and April 1945, tens of thousands of Jews, Serbs, Roma (Gypsies), Croats, and miscellaneous political prisoners were brought to Jasenovac via trains from communities across Croatia to work if they had skills needed by the Axis regime or to be savagely tortured and/or murdered if they didn't, according to museum research reports. In addition, Jasenovac was especially notorious for its brutal execution methods -- strangulation, live burning, live burial, murder by ax, ropes, chains -- as well as for the alleged participation of local Catholic clergy in those executions.

Between the summer of 1942 and March 1943, Croatian authorities reportedly emptied the camp of remaining Croatian Jews (about 7,000) and sent them to Auschwitz-Birkenau, leaving only non-Jewish prisoners in the camp. There have been many debates about how many people died at Jasenovac, and there is no agreement on the number that perished here or even who some of them were. In April 1945, the Ustasa guards deliberately destroyed the camp buildings and all records of what went on at Jasenovac when they realized that Tito's Partisan troops were closing in on them. However, most estimates say those killed at Jasenovac's camps number "more than 200,000," including 18,000 Jews.

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