The Prebilovci Massacre was one of many atrocities perpetrated by the Croatian Ustasha regime in the Independent State of Croatia during the World War II persecution of Serbs. Roughly 650 people, women and children, almost the entire population present at the time in the village of Prebilovci, were slaughtered and thrown into natural pits in Herzegovina, the most infamous being Golubinka near the town of Surmanci, together with other Serbs living in surrounding areas. And it was only in 1991 that their remains were extracted from those pits, later to fall victim to the Croats once again.
During the Second World War the inhabitants of Prebilovci fell victim to the Ustaša's persecution of non-Croats. In August 1941, some 650 women and children were taken away from their homes, after which they were moved to a place called Šurmanci where they were later thrown into natural pits around that area — either dead or half dead according to accounts — together with another thousand Serbs living in the Čapljina and Mostar municipalities. The men were in the mountains, hiding, in belief that the Croats would not harm their women and children.
Althrough, a group of 170 villagers, which primarily consisted of men, survived the massacre. 300 children and infants were massacred that day alone. Few Ustašas who took part in this were ever brought to trial after the War In Yugoslavia had ended. This incident was also the topic in a documentary before the war in Bosnia had erupted.
Prebilovci, a small village near Capljina was surrounded on the night of August 4, 1941, by some 3,000 "Ustashi" made up of the village's Croat neighbours. Expecting the attack, the townsfolk had fled to the hills on the night of August 3, but at dawn the women and children returned to their homes.
The Serbs of Prebilovci were herded together with other Serbs from the western part of Herzegovina and eventually six carloads of them were sent off on a train that was supposedly to take them to Belgrade. They were ordered out of the six cars they occupied at a town called Šurmanci, on the west bank of the Neretva, and marched off into the hills never to return.
Atrocities began in the villages including the killing of 50 infants who were swung by their legs so that their heads could be dashed against the school wall. There was continuous rape of the young girls there, and at other locations. On August 6, 150 "Ustasha" under Ivan Jovanovic ("Blacky") were joined by another 400 "Ustasha" from Capljina, and took the prisoners in rail cattle-cars to Vranac, some 500 to 1,000m from the Golubinks pit, one of many such natural, near-vertical cave formations in the region.
There the 550 "Ustasha" took small groups of prisoners to the pit and, family-by-family pushed them into it. The initial vertical fall was some 27 m, followed by a 100m steep slope to the base of the pit. Small children were thrown up into the air before falling into the pit. One women is known to have given birth as she fell into the pit. The newborn infant died with her under the crush of bodies.
One entire family of 78 persons died in the crush of the Golubinka Pit in Šurmanci. And after ali were pushed into it, the "Ustasha" sat around drinking and celebrating. Only 170 villagers survived. Remarkably, 45 survived the crush of the pits and escaped later to tell of the disaster. Only 14 of the 550 known "Ustasha" were brought to trial after the war, and one of the judges was himself an "Ustashi" close to the crime. Only six were sentenced to death, the remainder received prison sentences, majority around three years.
Josip Broz Tito had forbidden mention of the massacres but, by 1991, the new freedom allowed the families to exume the pit and bury their dead. The village, in 1941, had a population of 1,000. Earlier, it had given volunteers to join the Bosnian-Herzegovinian uprising against the Turks in 1875-78, and it had contributed 20 volunteers to the Serbian Army in Salonica in World War I and many villagers died as prisoners in Austro-Hungarian Empire concentration camps. Croat nationalists, however, harboured hatred at Prebilovci's contribution to the World War I Serbian army. The remains were dug up before the Bosnian-Herzegovinian civil war erupted in 1992, and a monument built. It has now been damaged or destroyed by the war. But even in 1991, when the carefully and reverently collected bones of the dead were being transported to a burial site, the truck passed under a bridge bearing the hastily-daubed sign in Serbo-Croat: "Come visit us again--God and the Croats.
- Prebilovci page with info of the World War II massacre - Template:Sr icon
- Article about massacre comemoration - Template:Sr icon
- Account of the massacre and alleged apparitions of Virgin Mary at Surmanci - Template:En icon
- Copley, Gregory. Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy. Volume XX, Number 12, December 31, 1992. - Template:En icon
- Prof. Dr. Vojinovic, Nikola. Srpske Jame u Prebilovcima. Genocid hrvatskih kleroustasa nad Srbima u Hercegovini (1991).
- The Balkan Conflict: The Psychological Strategy Aspects Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy Volume XX, Number 12 December 31, 1992 p. 4-9 by Gregory Copley, Editor-in-Chief