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In May and June 1945, at the end of World War II in Europe, the forests near Macelj, a village in northern Croatia, were the location where a large number of persons who were soldiers of NDH or closely associated with NDH, were shot by soldiers of the Yugoslav army (the Partisans). This was part of the events referred to as the Bleiburg tragedy.

In 1992, after Croatia became independent, 1163 bodies were excavated from 23 mass graves in the region, leaving around 130 possible mass grave locations unexplored.[1] DNA analysis was conducted on a few hundred of them. The names of identified persons were not officially published, but it is clear that they were victims of a mass execution. A large number of the bodies were dropped into the area's many pits, making it difficult to locate all casualties. Further investigation on this issue was not conducted, and final conclusions about the excavations cannot be drawn yet. Some of those executions have been investigated, but no one has ever been prosecuted.

Among those executed in Macelj were 25 Catholic priests from the Franciscan monastery of Široki Brijeg which were temporarily hidden in nearby Krapina.[2] In 2008, the Croatian Ministry of the Interior launched an investigation into Stjepan Hršak's possible involvement in that event.[2]

Reburial of excavated bodies in 2005 was followed by public mass led by Cardinal Josip Bozanić, at the time Archbishop of Zagreb.

Further excavations are planned, as of 2014.


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Sources close to Catholic church and right-wing politicians state that 12,000 people were killed in Macelj, mostly in June 1945. Other estimates place the number at closer to 17,000.

These high number claims are generally unsupported by the available facts.

They also claim that killed persons were innocent victims of communist regime, and for them it would not make any difference if the executions were preceded by court martial or not, since they would consider it to be show trial as in case of Alojzije Stepinac.

According to the promoted book of Juraj Hrženjak "Bleiburg i Križni put 1945" ("Bleiburg and The way of the cross 1945"), executed persons were Chetniks. Book does not debate on the number of executed people. No other sources other than Hrženjak claim that the executed were Chetniks.

It is also claimed by leftists that almost all executions were preceded by court martial. It is unknown whether executions were, partially or completely, preceded by court martial or not.

It is almost certain that executions, whether they were legally covered or not, were, in fact, revenge for the war crimes of local betrayers and collaborators.

It is unknown whether executions were exclusively perpetrated on the captured soldiers, or also on civilians. Generally, in most cases they were not directly politically motivated.

See also

  • Tezno mass graves


  1. "Macelj - gora zločina!" (in Croatian). 2012-05-16. Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Stjepan Hršak: Nisam sudjelovao u likvidaciji 25 svećenika u Macelju" (in Croatian). Stjepan Hršak: I did not take part in liquidation of 25 priests at Macelj. 2008-02-09.,2,9,,108130.jl. Retrieved 2012-06-01. 

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