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A War Heroine Diana Budisavljević Born On This Day


On this day 1891, Diana Budisavljević was born, a woman who saved over 12.000 children from the concentration camps in the Independent State of Croatia (ISoC).

Diana Obexer was born on the 15th of January 1891.

Born in Innsbruck, Diana Obexer married Dr. Julije Budisavljević who at that time worked as an intern physician at the surgical clinic in Innsbruck. In 1919, Dr. Budisavljević was appointed professor of surgery at the School of Medicine, University of Zagreb, so the couple moved to Zagreb.

In October 1941, after she had learned about children held at the camp Lobor-Grad, together with a number of collaborators, in particular, Marko Vidaković and Đuro Vukosavljević, she launched a relief campaign named “Action Diana Budisavljević”.

At the beginning of July 1942, with assistance from German officer Gustav von Koczian, she obtained written permission to take the children from the Stara Gradiška concentration camp. With the help of the Ministry of Social Affairs, especially prof. Kamilo Bresler, she was able to relocate child inmates from the camp to Zagreb, Jastrebarsko and later also to Sisak.

After the rescue efforts in Stara Gradiška, Budisavljević, wearing the uniform of a Red Cross nurse, took part in the transport of children from Mlaka, Jablanac and Jasenovac. More than 6,000 children had been moved away from those camps by the “Action” in July and August 1942. After obtaining permission in August 1942 to move the children from the institutions in Zagreb into the care of families, she worked together with the Zagreb Archdiocese branch of the Caritas and in that way made it possible for several thousands of children to be placed with families in Zagreb and rural communities.

Out of 15,536 children that Budisavljević saved, 3,254 children died during the rescue or immediately after leaving the camp, exhausted by torture, hunger and disease, while more than 12,000 rescued children survived the war. Eleven members of her team were killed during World War II. On the basis of transport lists and other sources, a card-file of children was made, which by the end of the war contained information of approximately 12,000 children. Upon a request from the Ministry of Social Politics in May 1945, she handed over the card-files that she had managed for four years together with Ivanka Džakula.

Budisavljević was almost forgotten after the war, publicly unmentioned in Yugoslavia for decades, because the post-war authorities did not look favorably upon her. She lived in Zagreb with her husband, for a total of 53 years before 1972, when they moved back to Innsbruck. She died on 20 August 1978, at the age of 87.

The “Diary of Diana Budisavljević”, originally written in German, was published in only 700 copies.

It covers the period from the 23rd of October, 1941 to the 13th August 1945.

It was published in the Croatian language in Zagreb in 2003, under the name “Diary of Diana Budisavljević 1941-1945”.

It described the situation,  conditions of the imprisoned children, their torture, suffering and death, their anxiety, as well as meetings and discussions with some of the greatest war criminals responsible for the IsoC’s genocide.

The film, called “Diary of Diana Budisavljevic” was the absolute winner of the 66th Pula Film Festival in 2019.




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