We carried the stone from the sea to the top of the hill. When the pile at the peak was big enough, we’d carry the stones back to the sea.
Those who hit harder would get out faster. Those who held their hand would have to stay longer, but we were all beaten, and we all hit the others. We were all brought down to the level of executioner.
After the experience of Goli Otok I lost all my self-confidence. I was timid. I was afraid of speaking my mind aloud, having to bite my tongue, living in the belief that any word of mine was going to be reported…. But the terror was no longer something conscious, in time it crept into the subconscious and was hard to wipe out…
More than the hail of blows and the yells while running the gauntlet I was perhaps more scared and appalled by the desperate appearance of these wretched creatures that so frantically yelled and hit out… If you didn’t hit out, it showed you had not said goodbye to “being an enemy”. We lived like wild animals. Constantly in fear, on our guard.
We got some barbed wire. We had to fence ourselves in, I don’t know why. There was no better barbed wire than the sea.
“On your hump, St. Gregory, began the classic question “To be or not to be?”*
If you beat up – you will be. If you do not beat up – you will be beaten up.”
(*the verb BITI here has 2 meanings: to beat up, to be)
The testimony of the former camp inmate Ženi Lebl, transcribed in the hand of her niece Ana Lebl, has been carved into the stone under the aegis of the project “You betrayed the Party..”, June, 2021, Sveti Grgur. Foto Ivo Martinović
We have no connection with the police, they just call the roll morning and evening. Everything is up to internal government. They tortured each other to prove something, to show that they had reformed… they turned into animals.
EVA NAHIR PANIĆ
We look like scarecrows. With terrible haircuts, beaten, blue and green, in rags… shivering like little birds in front of the group that screamed at us, spat on us and hit us, rushed at us.
EVA NAHIR PANIĆ
I stopped and went stiff, I couldn’t move from fear. They pushed me into the gauntlet and the beating started. From one side and the other fists hailed down upon me. Weak as I was, I couldn’t withstand two metres, started falling, but they pulled me up and went on beating, as if it were a competition who could do it more and better. Hitting and spitting, and that was the worst, the most terrible, the slimy gobbets of spit sliding down my face, arms, hair…
What a torture it was to clear the stone of Goli Otok and build those five huts. They sent me to the third and at once set me an escort. The supper gong ran out. Bitter tea and a little bit of bread.
… all that hunger, thirst, the beatings, the gauntlets, the pointless hauling stones uphill and downhill (“socially useful work”), the spitting on each other, wearing some kinds of humiliating decorations on our backs or around our necks, keeping vigil all night by the slop-pail or simply with our noses to the wall, the cultural programme that came down to the inmates humiliating and mocking each other, the constant shouting out of slogans and the singing of silly songs that savages would be disgusted at – all this had just a single goal: to wear the prisoner out physically and crush them morally, for them to be ready to declare, sign and do anything, absolutely anything, whatever they were asked.
I am not an enemy of this country, but I just couldn’t inform on the comrades.
… and that famous song was sung “We’ll drive out that gang, they’ll have nowhere to hide, hey, Tito’s young army, young army invincible”. Whenever during those two years I heard that song, my blood would freeze in my veins, because it always meant something was being prepared.
At that time if you hated someone, it was enough to point your finger, and they’d arrest them at once and take them off to Goli Otok.
We are no longer people, we are no longer anything, we just bleat and look stupid… I think there was not a single place that didn’t hurt me.
I was young and I could have eaten five cauldrons-full and not just one portion.
There was no kind of clothing that could save you from that cold.
I know there was a young girl, student of philosophy, very pretty and good. She was called Zora, Stojanović, I think, or Stojković. …She died. I asked if her people would come to take her home to bury her. From the Admin they said to me – it’s not possible, her two years are not up, she has to serve her time here, even if she’s dead.
Now there was a dead silence. For two or three days we kept quiet, nobody could look at anyone. That was a very difficult psychological situation that affected all of us. That was just exactly what they wanted, I mean the Admin, this method of theirs and this system of theirs was devised to destroy us psychologically. They destroyed us as personalities, killed our faith in ourselves, and created beasts out of us.
There were days when we got four sips of water before going to sleep. You count: one, two, three, four … when I drink water, I still count.
But nowhere, not in a single camp, did they try so much to humiliate you, to turn you into a rag, a moral deformity, to destroy and disfigure you from inside… From here, you were bound to get out a mental invalid, to be disgusted with yourselves, to be ashamed, to suffer the whole of the rest of your life… I don’t dream of Ravensbrück or Auschwitz, but not even today will Goli Otok, and everything experienced on it, leave me alone.
While there were other women, one smaller, one larger, the bigger one simply bent over, to make it easier for her partner, for them to really share the burden, not to say there were cases when some stronger and tougher ones would carry the stones themselves to protect their partners. And this one, fuck her, just lifted her hand off, I had to take the whole of the load, I couldn’t see where to go for the stone.
Some of the women hit me with hands and some of them had sticks, and sang the song “We’ll murder every scumbag who’s against the CPY*; anyone who’s not for Tito, there’s no sun to heat her”. Hit the gang! I had a bad characteristic; when someone hit me, instead of running like the others, I would stand and look to remember who it was. .When I got out at the end of the gauntlet, half the hair on my head was missing, I was dripping with blood.
*(kapejot) Communist Party of Yugoslavia
When she was standing under this light, I, by her side, took it terribly hard. And she was always somehow with me, we were close like that, we were just simply comrades. Her moans were something that broke the spirit of a person, I cannot explain what those moans were like, they were something inchoate, something so horribly sad, something terrible. Standing by her side, I took it dreadfully hard. She was the same age as me, perhaps a year younger, and I knew that her mother found it hard to bring her up, she was a good pupil and a good and honest human being.