Miroslav Filipović (5 June 1915 – 1946), also known as
Tomislav Filipović and Tomislav Filipović-Majstorović, was a
Franciscan friar and
Ustashe military chaplain that
participated in atrocities during
World War II
World War II in Yugoslavia.
Convicted as a war criminal in a Yugoslav civil court, he was executed
by hanging in 1946.
For the duration of the war, the Vatican kept full diplomatic
relations with the
Independent State of Croatia
Independent State of Croatia and was briefed on the
efforts of the
Ustaše to convert ethnic
Serbs to Catholicism. Some
former priests, mostly Franciscans, particularly in, but not limited
Herzegovina and Bosnia, took part in the atrocities themselves.
Filipović-Majstorović joined the
Ustaše on 7 February 1942 in a
brutal massacre of 2,730
Serbs of the nearby villages, including 500
children. He was reportedly subsequently dismissed from his order. He
became the Chief Guard of the
Jasenovac concentration camp
Jasenovac concentration camp where he
was nicknamed "Fra Sotona" ("Brother Satan") due to his sadism. When
he was hanged for war crimes, he wore his clerical garb, although some
claim he had been defrocked.
1 Early life
2 Ustaša chaplain
3 Responsibilities at the Jasenovac camps complex
3.2 Commandant of Jasenovac
3.3 Commandant of Stara Gradiška
5 See also
Filipović's date of birth was 5 June 1915, but little else about his
early years has been recorded. In 1938 he joined the
Petrićevac monastery, Banja Luka, and took “Tomislav” as his
In 1941, following establishment of the Independent State of Croatia
(NDH), a puppet state installed by the
Axis Powers embracing
Herzegovina as well as most of Croatia by the Ustaše, an
organisation of extremist Croatian nationalists, Filipović was
assigned to a chaplaincy in the Rama region in northern Herzegovina
but did not take up the assignment. In January 1942, after completing
his theological exams in Sarajevo, he became a military chaplain
with the Ustaša. 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, entitled Crimes in the Jasenovac
Camp (Zagreb 1946) is publicly available in English and Serbian.
Filipović (later known as Tomislav Filipović-Majstorović) was
assigned to II Poglavnik Bodyguard Battalion. Statements by two
eyewitnesses and a senior German general say 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; more than 2,300 Serb civilians – men,
women and children – were killed, usually with axes or
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, 13 fewer than
the immediately preceding estimate of 2,315.
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. In his testimony to a Croatian state
commission set up after
World War II
World War II to investigate war crimes “by
the occupation forces and their collaborators”, Filipović claimed
he neither participated in, nor even attended, the 7 February
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.
On 4 April 1942, Filipović was reportedly suspended from his
chaplaincy post by the papal legate in Zagreb and jailed in
Croatia. 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
Responsibilities at the Jasenovac camps complex
Ustaše execute prisoners near the Jasenovac concentration camp.
Through the direct intervention of Vjekoslav "Maks" Luburić, 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, 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.
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. 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. He won an apparent 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
Another particularly vicious killing was described by the former
Jewish prisoner, Egon Berger, in his book, "44 months in Jasenovac":
"The priestly face of Fra Majstorovic, all made-up and powdered,
dressed in an elegant suit an green hunter's hat, watched with delight
the victims. He approached the children, even stroked their heads. The
company was joined Ljubo Milos and Ivica Matkovic. Fra Majstorovic
told the mothers there will now be a baptism for their children. They
took the children from the mothers, the child whom Father Majstorovic
was carrying, in his child's innocence caressed the painted face of
his killer. The mothers, distraught, perceived the situation. They
offered their lives for mercy for the children. Two children were
placed on the ground, while the third was thrown like a ball into the
air, and Fr Majstorovic , holding a dagger upwards, missed three
times, while the fourth time with a joke and a laugh, a child was
impaled on the dagger. Mothers began throwing themselves on the
ground, pulling their hair, and began to shout terribly. Ustasha
guards of the 14th Osijek Company took them away and killed them. When
all three children were so brutally killed, these three two-legged
beasts exchanged money, because they seem to have a bet on who would
the first to stick a dagger in a child."
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
murdered 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. He 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
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 with respect
to 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.
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, who summoned 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”.
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
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. As a result, he
came to be known as “Fra Sotona” (”Friar Satan”). According to
Ronald Rychlak, Filopovic was "tried, laicized, and expelled from the
Franciscan order before the war even ended", reportedly on 22 October
1942, the date on which he was transferred to Stara Gradiška.
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.”
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, described Filipović's
sadistic killing of Serbian children, while, according to two
other witnesses, Simo (or Sime) 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 around 40 Bosniak villagers in the head. Škrgatić confirmed
that Filipović shot the 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'".
Ivan Placec, a witness, added that Filipović shot nine inmates that
day for an escape attempt. Josip Erlih also viewed a similar
occasion, when, he claimed, eight inmates were shot by Filipović.
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 the robes of the
Involvement of Croatian Catholic clergy with the Ustaša regime
^ a b c Michael Phayer. The Catholic Church and the Holocaust,
1930–1965. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. 2000.
pp. 34, 237. ISBN 0-253-21471-8.
^ Paris 1961, p. 160.
^ Darko Stuparić, Tko je tko u NDH: Hrvatska 1941-1945, 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.
^ Jure G. Kristo, Sukob simbola: politika, vjere i ideologije u
Nezavisnoj Državi Hrvatskoj, Nakladni zavod Globus, 2001;
ISBN 953-167-133-8; pg. 105
^ Lazar Lukajić, Fratri i ustaše kolju (Friars and
Ustaše Do the
Slaughtering), Belgrade: 2005.
Lazar 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, which would total 2,315.
Mirković was director successively of the Jasenovac Memorial Centre
in Croatia and the Museum of Genocide Victims in Serbia.
^ BiH Supreme Court Archive, B.I.I.k171-13/15-1
^ a b István Deák, Essays on Hitler's Europe, University of Nebraska
Press: 2002, pg. 203.
^ 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
returned bloody from the slaughter. Later I heard stories that on that
occasion 2,000 people were killed."
^ Archive of the Supreme Court of Bosnia-Hercegovina,
^ a b c Jure G. Krišto, Katolička crkva i Nezavisna Država Hrvatska
1941-1945, Zagreb: 1998, pg. 223
^ Sakić trail, Gabrijel Winter testimony, 12 April 1999.
^ Review of International Affairs: Politics, Economics, Law, Science,
Culture, Federation of Yugoslav Journalists: 1950: Belgrade, Serbia,
^ Berger, Egon (1966). 44 mjeseca u Jasenovcu. Zagreb: Nakladni zavod
Hrvatske. p. 57.
^ a b SCC (op cit) Section D-XXVI
^ SCC (op cit), Section C-III
^ a b Dr Nikola Nikolić, Jasenovački Logor (Jasenovac Prison Camp),
Zagreb: 1948, pp. 285-89.
^ Milan Bulajić, "Ustaški zločini genocida i suđenje Andriji
Artukoviću 1986. godine", Izdavačka radna organizacija "Rad", 1988,
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 ...
^ Egon Berger testimony: 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.
^ Šakić trial, Ivan Palcec testimony, 19 April 1999.
^ Šakić trial, Josip Erlih testimony, 5 May 1999.
^ Paris 1961, p. 190.
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Record of Racial and Religious Persecutions and Massacres. Chicago:
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Phayer, Michael (2008). Pius XII, the Holocaust, and the Cold War.
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Novak, Viktor (2011). Magnum Crimen: Half a Century of Clericalism in
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