Woman who rescued Serb children from WW2 Croat death camps
Wilhelm Kuehs' book "Diana's List" - published in Serbian by Samizdat B92 - tells the true story of an exceptional woman - Diana Budisavljevic.
During the Second World War, she conducted one of the largest humanitarian actions not only in the divided and occupied Yugoslavia, but also in Europe, occupied or dominated at the time by Nazi Germany.
This was a campaign to rescue thousands of Serb children from the concentration camps in the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) - a Nazi-allied WW2 entity ruled by the Ustasha regime.
The rescue of Serb children from Ustasha camps began in full force after an operation of German and NDH forces in Bosanska Krajina and Kozara in June and July 1942. After the terrible massacres during the operation itself, tens of thousands of people of all ages were deported to Jasenovac, the largest Ustasha concentration camp.
A large number of detainees were immediately killed, while a number of men and women were sent to camps in Germany and Norway, either directly or through the camp at the Belgrade Fairgrounds.
Before the deportation, children, including young babies, were taken away from their mothers. Thus, at the beginning of 1942, thousands of Serb children, separated from their parents, ended up in Ustasha concentration camps in Jasenovac, Stara Gradiska, and the surroundings. Soon they started falling victim to hunger and illness.
A large group of children were murdered by poison gas in the Stara Gradiska camp. The complete destruction of the little prisoners was prevented by the actions of Dijana Budisavljevic, who acted along with a wide circle of associates.
Immediately after the war, OZNA members took Budisavljevic's carefully kept files, that included photographs, and prohibited her further work.
In his book, Wilhelm Kuehs succeeded in faithfully evoking what was fundamental: the atmosphere of mass persecution and death. His book is of utmost importance for familiarizing the general public with a humanitarian undertaking as important as the rescue of Serb children from Ustasha camps.