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The Action of Diana Budisavljević – The Silent Truth

On June 14, 1942, Diana Budisavljević recorded in her diary:  It was the most beautiful gift I received in my life – the possibility to save people from certain death.


Diana Budisavljević (née Obexer, Innsbruck, Austria, 1891-1978), an Austrian woman married to a prominent Zagreb doctor, Julije Budisavljević, describes in her diary her personal commitment and the involvement of her co-workers in organizing assistance to Serbian women and especially children who were detained in concentration camps in the Independent State of Croatia, for example in Jasenovac. Thanks to this operation that she called “Action of Diana Budisavljević”, around 10.000 children  were rescued from a likely tragic fate.


The diary is a remarkable historical document of a short but brutal period in Croatian history, written from the perspective of a woman who found the strength and courage to think and act freely and provide an active civil resistance to the Ustaša regime in extremely difficult war conditions.


How did Diana Budisavljević succeed in developing this operation which was undoubtedly the most humane action of its kind in the territory of Croatia and maybe in entire occupied Europe? Since children could be taken from the camps only legally, she managed to convince the competent Ustaša authorities to grant her these permissions and to relocate the children, with the support of Caritas, in institutions and families who would take care of them and offer them a safe life.


From the beginning of the “Action”, Diana worked on the list of children who were taken from the camps and placed in various shelters and foster families. But these files with information about 12,000 registered children, which should have been used after the war by parents and/or relatives to identify and retrieve children, were taken away from her immediately after the liberation in May 1945.


From the perspective of the new communist government she was „a bourgeois“, an Austrian, and a friend with the enemy that occupied the country. At the same time she was not a member of the Antifascist Women’s Front nor any other illegal National Liberation Movement organizations in Zagreb. The new government was suspicious of her in every way. She and her ”Action” had to be forgotten. All the credit for saving the children went to the communist party and the organizations under its auspices.


With the publication of her diary in 2003, the truth about who was saving the children was finally publicly established.


Nataša Mataušić

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