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23. 03. 1999. 18:56H

ZAGREB, March 23 (Hina) - The Zagreb County Court's Trial Chamber on Tuesday heard the testimony of Simo Klaic (born in 1925) in the trial of Dinko Sakic, a commander of the Jasenovac concentration camp during World War II.

Klaic was imprisoned in both Jasenovac and the Stara Gradiska concentration camps. After he had been arrested in his hometown of Stari Perkovac on December 25, 1941, Klaic was transferred to Slavonski Brod, where he was handed a decision on his deportation to Jasenovac. On January 20, 1942, he was transferred from Jasenovac to Stara Gradiska.

"I don't know why I was arrested. I was 16 years old", he said.

At Stara Gradiska, Klaic and another 13 prisoners were imprisoned in two concrete-floor cells, in the "K" unit. He remained there several days. After that, he had to cut and chop wood and in early April he was sent to the so-called economy building. Klaic remembered the destruction of an Orthodox church, located on the camp premises.

According to Klaic, the most horrible event at the Stara Gradiska camp was the execution of some 600-700 children. "As the children were being led towards the "Kula" near the economy building, they were crying terribly because they had been separated from their mothers. They were all naked and had crosses painted on their backs", Klaic said adding the children had been poisoned with Zyklon-B by Ante Vrban in three turns at the small "Kula" building.

Speaking about musters at Stara Gradiska, Klaic said the first one had taken place in late April 1942, when Ilko Bukovac and Gadzic selected 20 prisoners and took them to cell "3", where they were kept until they died of hunger and thirst. In June the same year, another 36 prisoners were selected to be killed in the same way. Four of them survived thanks to an Ustasha lieutenant Nemet, who was hanged in Jasenovac in 1944, because he claimed that Germans and Ustashi would lose the war.

"The worst time was in summer 1942, when they collected the sick and took them to the so-called infirmary, from where they were transferred to the Sava River and executed", Klaic said adding this would happen once a week.

The witness said he had seen the arrival of a Croatian writer Mihovil Pavlek Miskina to the camp. "Word went round that sometime between January 5 and 10, he was killed by Gagro and Sakic. This was confirmed by the Ustashi and the undertakers confirmed that he had been buried in the graveyard", Klaic said.

The witness further said he had seen Sakic and his wife-to-be Nada for the first time in late April 1942, in front of a church located near the women's section of the camp.

Speaking about his meeting with Mato Sakic, Dinko Sakic's brother, who brought him a package at the camp, Klaic said he had warned Mato Sakic that Dinko must never learn about it or he would kill them both.

The witness also described the killing of the Jewish women section of the camp. Women and children were put in a police van called "Green Thomas" - which had its exhaust pipe connected to the interior with a hose - and driven around the camp until they were suffocated.

Klaic further gave a detailed description of events which happened on Christmas Eve 1942, when Miroslav Filipovic Majstorovic, after mass was served, ordered a muster in front of the economy building, after which he killed four prisoners and stabbed them with a knife. He then ordered a Sarajevo Jew, Alkalaj, to sing for him old love songs. When Alkalaj finished singing, Majstorovic told him to "come closer so I could pay you", then grabbed him by the chest and slit his throat. After that, Majstorovic went to the Bosnian section of the camp and there had 56 Jews tied, who he then killed with an axe and threw in a well.

Klaic said he learned about this shortly after the execution from scared prisoners in the economy building. Majstorovic's bloody orgies were finished at Stara Gradiska, where he shot dead 42 prisoners with firearms. "That was a form of intimidation", Klaic said, adding the Ustashi used to kill ten prisoners for one escaped prisoner.

Mass killings started after the events on Mount Kozara. "The camp was full of men, women and children. They were sleeping in the open", Klaic said, adding the Ustashi separated the sick for "plum picking", but they never returned came back.

Speaking about the elimination of the Stara Gradiska camp, which started on September 23, 1944, Klaic said that about 300 Serbs had been executed early in the morning in the southern section of the camp. After that, 1,000-1,200 prisoners were forced to march to the Jasenovac camp.

The witness was not among those prisoners, because he was in a group of 800 prisoners who had been sent to Lepoglava. They arrived there on December 8, 1944. The day before the Ustashi had massacred 40 people in the "Lepa" factory. Klaic said he was in a group of prisoners who loaded the corpses on trucks. "Lepoglava was horrible, as if all evil from Stara Gradiska and Jasenovac had concentrated there", he said, adding that after Lepoglava camp had been eliminated, the prisoners were taken back to Jasenovac by train.

The witness said he was in a wagon with some 80 prisoners, who attempted to escape near Popovaca. Fifty-seven of them survived, and the others were either killed by firearms or strayed into mine fields. After the war Klaic learned that the Ustashi had burned down the other four wagons in Jasenovac.

At the end of his testimony, Klaic said he would like to add a list of 187 people from Lipovljani, of whom nine had been released, one escaped during the break-through, while the others were all killed in Jasenovac on September 19 and 20, 1944. Klaic also handed a list of Croats who died of thirst and hunger in solitary confinement. One group had 20 prisoners and the other 36.

After this, Klaic described the event at the "Kula" at Stara Gradiska when Maja Buzdon took a small child from a woman's breast and, holding it by the legs, smashed it against a wall. The child was killed instantly.

Following the testimony, president of the Trial Chamber Drazen Tripalo warned the defendant not to interrupt and comment on the course of the hearing, otherwise he would have to leave the courtroom.

This material is provided by Croatian News Agency (HINA)
HINA News Line: http://www.HINA.Hr/

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