Trial of WWII Camp Commander Urged
JASENOVAC, Croatia (AP) _ Holocaust survivors gathered Sunday in Jasenovac to commemorate a desperate escape from a notorious World War II concentration camp and to demand that its commander be held accountable.
``He has to be punished for this,″ said Djurdja Kozak, referring to Dinko Sakic, who oversaw the camp in 1944 and is now being tried in Zagreb for war crimes. ``Horrible crimes happened here, and he was the commander.″
Sakic was extradited to Croatia last June and is being tried for crimes against humanity in the deaths of 2,000 people at Jasenovac during eight months in 1944. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
Tens of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and anti-fascist Croats perished in Jasenovac from 1941 through 1945, when the Nazi puppet state sought to get rid of the ``undesirables.″
But prosecuting Sakic is problematic: Many potential witnesses against him either died in the camp or did not live long enough after the war to face him in the courtroom. Time, fear and concentration camp conditions have dimmed the memories of some witnesses.
One survivor, Paula Ilibacic, 81, clearly remembers how barbaric conditions were.
``I feel awfully sad watching him in the courtroom, shaved, each day in another suit, knowing that he has decent food, TV and other goodies in the prison,″ she said. ``We ate grass. We were tortured. And we feared for our lives every single second.″
Ilibacic was among hundreds of people gathered at Jasenovac on Sunday to commemorate the 54th anniversary of a desperate 1945 breakout of 600 inmates from their heavily guarded barracks in Jasenovac. Only 70 made it out alive, and the others were shot to death.