Miroslav Filipović

Miroslav Filipović.

Miroslav Filipović (5 June 1915 — 1946) was a Croatian Ustaše and Roman Catholic friar (later known as Tomislav Filipović and Tomislav Filipović-Majstorović) who was convicted of war crimes by both a German military court and a Yugoslav civil court and hanged in Belgrade.


Early life

Filipović's date of birth was 5 June 1915, but little else about his early years has been recorded.[1] In 1938 he joined the Franciscan Order at Petrićevac monastery, Banja Luka, and took “Tomislav” as his religious name.[2]

In 1941, a superior at his monastery allegedly urged Filipović to distance himself from the Ustaša,[citation needed] an organisation of extremist Croatian nationalists installed by the Axis Powers in April 1941 to rule in the Independent State of Croatia (ISC), a puppet state embracing Bosnia-Hercegovina as well as most of Croatia. Filipović was assigned to a chaplaincy in the Rama-Šćit region (in northern Herzegovina).[3] He did not take up the assignment. In January 1942, after completing his theological exams in Sarajevo,[4] he became a military chaplain with the Ustaša.[5]

Ustaša Chaplain

Tomislav Filipović (later known as Tomislav Filipović-Majstorović) was assigned to II Poglavnik Bodyguard Battalion. Statements by two eyewitnesses and a senior German general alleged that on 7 February 1942, Filipović accompanied elements of his battalion in an operation aimed at wiping out Serbs in the settlement of Drakulić, on the northern outskirts of Banja Luka, and in two neighbouring villages, Motike and Šargovac. A few Serbs survived, but overwhelmingly the operation achieved its objective and more than 2,300 Serb civilians - men, women and children - were killed, usually with axe or pick-axe. He was nicknamed by his troops "the glorious one", and he ordered that little Serbian children be brought before him, so that he could slaughter them with the traditional Ustaše weapons: the knife and gun. He and Father Zvonimir Brekalo would kill these children by cutting their necks.[6]

Reports sent to Eugen Dido Kvaternik, head of the state internal security service, from his Banja Luka office and dated 9 and 11 February 1942, noted that the victims at Šargovac included 52 children killed at the village primary school. The first of these reports gives death tolls at the mine, the school and the three villages which together total 2,287. The second revises the death toll at the school from 37 to 52, bringing the toll to 2,302. [7] Two teachers survived the school massacre: Dobrila Martinović, who subsequently suffered a nervous breakdown, and Mara Šunjić (shown as Tunjić in some documents) who gave evidence against Filipović at his postwar trial in Belgrade. According to Šunjić's trial testimony Filipović not only participated in the atrocity but also incited fellow Ustaše to act with extreme cruelty.[8]

By 1955 Martinović was teaching again, in the Bosnian village of Siprage southeast of Banja Luka. She described the Šargovac school massacre in conversations with a university professor, Jovo Jovanović and with her headteacher, and her account was published in 1968. She explained that she had no reason to be alarmed when Filipović arrived at the school because he was based at the nearby Prebićevac monastery and was often seen passing through the villages. On previous occasions his manner had been friendly. The teacher recalled that when Filipović and some Ustaše entered her classroom, the children looked on with curiosity but no fear. But Filipović took a child, Vasilija Glamočanin, and "slaughtered her with a knife" in front of the class. He urged the Ustaša troops who accompanied him to deal similarly with the other children and assured them that he would take the sin upon himself.[9] Viktor Novak had attributed a similar account to Martinović in Magnum crimen, but embellished it, like some other passages in the same book, with grotesque and sometimes improbable detail: “As each child passed, an Ustaša would gouge out an eye and push it into the child's slit belly” etc. Similar atrocities occurred on 12 February 1942 at two more villages in the area, Piskavica and Ivanjska (now Potkozarje), but there is no concrete evidence that Filipović was involved in those events.[10][11]

Officers of the German occupying authority were dismayed by the February massacres, fearing that they would provoke uprisings among the civilian population of the region.[12] Filipović was court-martialed by the Germans for his involvement, possibly at the request of the Italian army which was then occupying part of the ISC territory.[13] In his testimony to a Croatian state commission set up after World War II to investigate war crimes “by the occupation forces and their collaborators”, Filipović said he neither participated in, nor even attended, the 7 February massacres.[14] However, General Edmund Glaise-Horstenau, the senior German officer in the region, implicated Filipović in a report where he stated that as well as being present "during the slaughtering" the priest had attended a planning meeting prior to the massacres, along with certain other Catholic priests. He reported that the Ustaša's former city chief in Banja Luka, Viktor Gutić, and the city's court president, a Dr. Stilinović, were also at the meeting.[15] On 4 April 1942 Filipović was reportedly suspended from his chaplaincy post[16] by the papal legate in Zagreb and jailed in Croatia.[13]

Responsibilities at the Jasenovac camps complex


Ustaše execute prisoners near the Jasenovac concentration camp.

Through the direct intervention of Vjekoslav "Maks" Luburić,[17] who then headed Section III of the ISC internal security service (Ustaška Narodna Služba), which was responsible for administering the puppet state's system of prison camps,[18] Filipović was quickly released and posted to the Jasenovac complex of labour and death camps where he was at first an inmate with benefited status, who aided the Ustase, and later appointed Ustase, commanding a small transit camp nigh Jasenovac, in early 1942, He reportedly killed an inmate there for hiding a loaf of bread.[19] Shortly thereafter he became chief-guard, responsible for mass-executions and lieutenant of the commander Ljubo Miloš and administrator Ivica Matković, and later, on 10 June 1942, administrator of the main camp in their stead, until the return of Matković, in March 1942.[17][20] Luburić gave Filipović a new surname, "Majstorović", derived from a local word meaning "master" or "craftsman". From then on documents referred to him sometimes by that name and sometimes as Filipović-Majstorović. One event that had him noted for being overly-cruel, was his apparent victory in a bet placed by him, Marinko Polić and Jerko Maričić, both infamous NCOs in the camp. Witness Josip Riboli stated:

Majstorović, Polić and Maricić competed over which of them was a better butcher. Victims had to kneel in front of them until they were touching their foreheads to the ground, and the executioners would fire their revolvers at the backs of their heads. If death wasn't instant, one of them would grab a knife and slit the victim's throat.[21]

Commandant of Jasenovac

After the war Filipović admitted that he had personally killed about 100 prisoners and had attended mass executions of many more. He estimated that under his command some 20-30,000 prisoners were liquidated at the main Jasenovac camp. He said prisoners would often be made to stand in prepared trenches where each was then killed with a sledgehammer blow.[22] Filipović went on to describe his tenure in command of Stara Gradiška, a prison camp primarily for women which was designated Camp V within the Jasenovac system:

I [was at] Stara Gradiška from the end of October 1942 until 27 March 1943. During that time mass liquidations were performed, usually outside the camp, for instance in Mlaka and Jablanac, but some were sent off to Jasenovac too. Such large transports for liquidations were carried out by the order of Matković Ivica (i.e. Ivica Matković), and in this way 2-3,000 people were sent away. On 16 April 1945 I returned to Jasenovac, where I stayed until the end. I know that at the time corpses of prisoners from Gradina were being exhumed and burned, in order to cover up traces of what had been done. I didn’t participate in the liquidation of the last prisoners, but only in exhumation.[22]

After hearing from 62 Jasenovac survivors, whom it listed usually with complete addresses, the war-crimes commission in 1946 counted Filipović among 13 Ustaše who “stood out” for their brutality and direct involvement in the killing. It reported that even the cruelty of Ljubo Miloš, notorious for slashing prisoners to death in a mock clinic, was “surpassed in sadism” by Filipović. The commission saw Filipović's statement as a “crucial” acknowledgement of his participation in atrocities, but in respect of the numbers he had given it noted: "All witnesses interviewed, who were prisoners themselves, speak with complete consistency and certainty of a far greater number, especially in regards to the number of victims killed by Majstorovic himself." The commission cited one witness, Tomo Krkac, who had described seeing Filipović “very often” shooting prisoners during so-called public executions and forcing prisoners to kill other prisoners with sledgehammers.[23]

In one of the first published memoirs about life and death in the Jasenovac complex, a Croatian medical doctor and academic, Dr. Nikola Nikolić, who had been imprisoned in Camp III, described his first meeting with Filipović: “His voice had an almost feminine quality which was at odds with his physical stature and coarse face.” Nikolić recalled standing in the second row of a group of prisoners who had been lined up to watch as another group of prisoners were herded in front of Filipović. Filipovović called Nikolić to the front so that, as a doctor, he could witness “our surgery being performed without anaesthetic”. Filipović then shot dead two prisoners and told a colleague to “finish off the rest”.[24]

Nikolić quotes another survivor, Josip Riboli:

“Compared with Matković and Miloš, whose faces revealed the baseness of their inner natures, Filipović Majstorović seemed kind and gentle - except when the slaughtering was going on. Then he was incomparable. He was the leader of all the mass killings at Gradina. He went off to conduct the slaughtering every night and came back covered with blood.”[24]

Riboli also gave evidence to the Croatian war-crimes commission. According to the accounts of some survivors, Filipović continued to act as a chaplain while commanding the camp and sometimes wore his Franciscan robes while carrying out his crimes.[25] As a result he came to be known among prisoners as “Fra Sotona” (”Brother Satan”). There is no evidence that he was excommunicated by the Catholic Church, but he was reportedly removed from the Franciscan order on 22 October 1942, the date on which he was transferred to Stara Gradiška.[16] In 1981 a Banja Luka priest stated that Filipović told him, in the month after he relinquished command at Jasenovac, that he was guilty of crimes at the camp but was innocent of involvement in the massacres in and around Drakulić in February 1942.[26]

In September 1944, Filipović, along with Dinko Šakić and others, was appointed to sit on an ad hoc court-martial convened to try prisoners accused of forging links with the partisans and plotting an escape. The Croatian War Crimes Commission in its report was at a loss to explain why such a process had been deemed necessary when Ustaše had already killed thousands of people “by heinous means, without any justification or procedure”. It reported that all 31 accused prisoners were hanged after undergoing severe torture including blindings, crushed fingers and blow-lamp burns. Filipović in his testimony said: “We (the court-martial) didn't investigate anything, we only signed the verdicts.” A witness, Dervis Sarać, recalled how three gypsies were brought to play music before Filipović, who, disappointed by the music, shot one and sent the others to death.[27] Another witness accuses him of having shot an inmate while eating lunch, after which deed he resumed eating.[28]

Commandant of Stara Gradiška

As chief of camp Stara Gradiška, which predominantly housed women and children, Miroslav Filipović-Majstorović excelled in sadism. A Jewish survivor of Jasenovac, Egon Berger, has described Filipović’s sadistic killing of children,[29] while two other witnesses, Šimo Klaić and Dragutin Škrgatić: Klaić recalls that in Christmas 1942, Miroslav [Filipović-Majstorović] ordered mass and later a muster, where he killed four inmates with a knife, while forcing a Jew of Sarajevo, Alkalaj, to sing, then ordering Alkalaj to near [approach] him, stabbing him in the chest and slashing his throat. Then he killed 56 Bosnian Jews by tying them with wire, hitting them with an axe so they all fell into a well. Then he shot 42 Bosnian villagers in the head[30] Škrgatić confirmed that Filipović shot 40 villagers in the head after mass, adding: "In Majstorović's time, musters and executions were frequent. Friar Majstorović favored a mystical approach to the killings.... After he killed them, sat on a chair and said 'justice has been done'".[31] Ivan Placec, a witness, added that Filipović shot nine inmates that day for an escape attempt.[32] Witness Josip Erlih recalls Miroslav shooting at eight inmates to death.[33]


In 1946 Filipović stood trial in Belgrade for war crimes. He gave evidence consistent with his statement to the Croatian war-crimes commission, admitting his participation in some crimes and denying involvement in others. He was found guilty, sentenced to death and hanged, wearing his friar's robes.[34]


  1. ^ Jasenovac - Donja Gradina: Industry of Death, 1941-45
  2. ^ Tko je tko u NDH: Hrvatska 1941-1945 by Darko Stuparić, Minerva, Zagreb: 1997, pg. 114
    Zahtjev je usvojen te je Filipović isključen iz franjevačkog reda 10. VII. 1942, kada gubi i pravo na ime fra Tomislav.
  3. ^ Jasenovac: Diverse Interpretations
  4. ^ Sukob simbola: politika, vjere i ideologije u Nezavisnoj Državi Hrvatskoj by Jure G. Kristo, Nakladni zavod Globus, 2001, ISBN 9531671338; pg. 105
  5. ^ Crimes in the Jasenovac Camp (Zagreb 1946), a report by the State Commission of Croatia for the Investigation of the Crimes of the Occupation Forces and their Collaborators (SCC), Section D-XXVI. (As of August 2008 this report is available in English at http://www.jasenovac-info.com/cd/biblioteka/jasenovac1946/jasenovac1946.pdf, and in Serbian at http://www.jasenovac-info.com/cd/biblioteka/jasenovac1946/jasenovac-1946.html)
  6. ^ Lazar Lukajić: Fratri i ustaše kolju (Friars and Ustaše Do the Slaughtering), Belgrade: 2005. Lukajić includes a list, compiled by Jovan Mirković, of 2,299 victims, including some men who were killed at the Rakovac coal mine nearby. The list, which includes the full name and birth year of every victim, also includes details of a further 16 men killed at the mine who were not from any of the three villages. (Mirković was director successively of the Jasenovac Memorial Centre in Croatia and the Museum of Genocide Victims in Serbia)
  7. ^ BiH Supreme Court Archive, B.I.I.k171-13/15-1
  8. ^ Magnum crimen by Viktor Novak, Zagreb: 1948, pg. 647
  9. ^ Banja Luka u ratu i revoluciji (Banja Luka During the War and Revolution) by Dušan Lukac, Banja Luka: 1968, pg. 192
  10. ^ New-Age Drakulas by Jovan Babić (Banja Luka: 2000), epilogue to the second edition.
  11. ^ www.serbianunity.net
  12. ^ Emperor's Clothes
  13. ^ a b Essays on Hitler's Europe by István Deák (University of Nebraska Press: 2002), pg. 203
  14. ^ SCC (op. cit) Section D-XXVI: "One night I went into action with II Poglavnik Bodyguard, only to search surrounding Orthodox villages that we suspected were hosting Četniks. I emphasise that I was a priest in that area before the ISC [was established]. I saw how Ustaše soldiers returned bloody from the slaughter. Later I heard stories that on that occasion 2,000 people were killed."
  15. ^ Archive of the Supreme Court of Bosnia-Hercegovina, B.I.I.k171-13/15-1
  16. ^ a b Katolička crkva i Nezavisna Država Hrvatska 1941-1945 by Jure Krišto, Zagreb: 1998, pg. 223
  17. ^ a b [1]
  18. ^ Ustaška Narodna Služba
  19. ^ Sakić trail, Gabrijel Winter testimony, 12 April 1999.
  20. ^ Holocaust Resources for Catholic Educators[dead link]
  21. ^ Review of International Affairs: Politics, Economics, Law, Science, Culture by Savez novinara Jugoslavije, Socijalistički savez radnog naroda Jugoslavije, Jugoslovenska stvarnost (Firm), Institut za međunarodnu politiku i privredu (Belgrade, Serbia); Federation of Yugoslav Journalists: 1950, pg. 22
  22. ^ a b SCC (op cit) Section D-XXVI
  23. ^ SCC (op cit), Section C-III
  24. ^ a b Jasenovački Logor (Jasenovac Prison Camp) by Dr. Nikola Nikolić, Zagreb: 1948, pgs. 285-9
  25. ^ "Ustaški zločini genocida i suđenje Andriji Artukoviću 1986. godine" by Milan Bulajić, Izdavačka radna organizacija "Rad", 1988, pg. 832
    Pop Majstorović-Filipović se pojavio jednog dana u mantiji i s velikim krstom na lancu, opasan širokim opasačem-kaišem, na kojem je bio zataknut prilično veliki bodež ...
  26. ^ Statement by Branimir Župančić
  27. ^ Dervis Sarac testimony in the trial of Dinko Sakić (15 April 1999)
  28. ^ See Sakić indictment, overview of the witnesses' testimonies & Vladimir Cvija testimony here
  29. ^ Egon Berger: 44 mjeseca u Jasenovu, Nakladni zavod Hrvatske, Zagreb: 1966, pg. 57:

    Svećeničko lice fra Majstorovića, obučenog u elegantno odijelo, našminkanog i napudranog, u zelenom lovačkom šeširu, sa nasladom je posmatralo žrtve. Prišao je djeci, čak ih je i pomilovao po glavi. Društvu se priključio Ljubo Miloš i Ivica Matković. Fra Majstorović reče majkama sada će biti krštenje njihove djece. Oduzeli su majkama djecu, a dijete koje je nosio fra Majstorović u svojoj dječijoj nevinosti milovalo je našminkano lice svoga ubojice. Majke, izbezumljene, uočile su situaciju. Nude svoje živote tražeći milost za mališane. Dvoje djece su metnuli na zemlju, dok je treće bačeno kao lopta u zrak, a fra Majstorović, držeći u ruci bodež okrenut prema gore tri puta je promašio, dok je četvrti put uz šalu i smijeh, dijete ostalo nataknuto na bodež. Majke su se bacale po zemlji čupajući kose a kad su počele strahovito vikati, ustaški stražari 14. osječke satnije odveli su ih i likvidirali. Kad je sve troje djece tako svirepo stradalo, tri dvonožne zvijeri su međusobno davali novac, jer izgleda da su se kladili tko će prije nataknuti dijete na bodež.

  30. ^ Šakić trial, Šimo Klaić testimony, 23 March 1999
  31. ^ Šakić trial, Škrgatić testimony dated 14 April 1999 found here
  32. ^ Šakić trial, Ivan Palcec testimony, 19 April 1999. Josip Erlih also viewed a similar occasion, when, he claimed, eight inmates were shot by Filipović; Ibidem, Josip Erlih testimony, 5 May 1999
  33. ^ Šakić trial, Josip Erlich testimony
  34. ^ Genocide in satellite Croatia, 1941-1945:a record of racial and religious persecutions and massacres by Edmond Pâris, American Institute for Balkan Affairs, 1961, page 190

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