The first groups of female political prisoners began arriving in Stara Gradiška Camp at the end of 1941. Eleven female political prisoners were sent in a transport of Jewish and Roma families from Jasenovac Camp.
Croatian, Jewish, Serbian and Roma women were first housed in the Tower, a damp, dark building. Sickness, hunger, torture, death and murder preceded the transportation of these women to their executions.
In March 1942 the Ustashas separated the Croatian women and took them to the so- called Croatian Women’s Camp - several buildings surrounded by barbed wire and high walls. Women were not taken to be liquidated from this camp on a regular basis or in large numbers, so the prisoners began developing organised resistance: mutual encouragement, care for the sick and for children.
“The seeds of the organised women’s camp in Jasenovac were sown in the summer of 1943, when a group of 100 women was brought to Stara Gradiška Camp to work in the fields of Jasenovac. Most of us were young and healthy, able to do the hard physical labour that awaited us. We got up at dawn every day, before sunrise, would quickly snatch a meagre breakfast consisting of “black coffee”, i.e. sugarless boiled chicory and no bread, before marching in a column, flanked by Ustasha guards, across the embankment to the ferry, which transported us across the River Sava. Then we walked for up to 10 kilometres to the distant fields in which we worked. We worked all day long, mostly hoeing the corn, collecting the produce, drying hay, etc. until we headed back to the barracks in the evening, arriving late at night. We mostly ate thin corn gruel with no salt or fat.”
Nada Salamon, “Ženski logori u Jasenovcu” (The Women’s Camp in Jasenovac, Mirko Peršen, “Ustaški logori” (The Ustasha Camps), Zagreb, 1980, p. 203
During the summers of 1943 and 1944, the number of captive women grew much larger with the arrival of women from surrounding villages and territories caught up in the war. The women’s camp was relocated to a new, brick, one-storey building in the eastern section of Camp III (Brickworks), in the autumn of 1944.