1925 (Varazdin, Croatia)Economist
"As a former inmate of the … Weimar-Buchenwald Concentration Camp … my memory of that camp of horror would have receded more with time … if the crimes and camps had not sprung to life again in this war at the end of the twentieth century …"
Tomislav Novak was born in Varazdin, Croatia on 7 September 1925, the son of a businessman.
In 1943, as a member of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, he took part in illegal poster and leaflet campaigns, was arrested by the Gestapo and received a suspended sentence. While attempting to enter the area near Varazdin that was occupied by Tito’s partisans, he was taken prisoner and in December 1943 was transferred to the Savska Cesta prison in Zagreb. Though sentenced to death, he was instead kept in captivity by the Gestapo as a potential hostage to be executed in reprisal for German deaths, and sent to Graz.
In late December 1943, along with ten Jewish women from Zagreb, he was taken to Buchenwald Concentration Camp. There he worked in the depot building, and was in contact with the Yugoslav resistance organization; in November 1944 he was transferred to the S-III subcamp near Ohrdruf.
In early April 1945, when the camp was vacated, he was among the inmates forced to march back to Buchenwald.
After liberation, Novak was treated for tuberculosis in Blankenhain hospital, and he subsequently returned to his parents in Zagreb. After completing his school studies he was employed in the state-run economy. In 1959 political difficulties forced him to withdraw from his activity in the League of Communists of Yugoslavia and other political organizations, and from 1959 to 1962 he was banned from state employment. He then studied economics, gaining his diploma in 1967. In 1978 he published, jointly with Jurica Kerbler, the first monograph on Buchenwald in Yugoslavia, Istina o Buchenwaldu ("The Truth about Buchenwald"), in 1983 he worked with others on Zbornik Buchenwald, the Yugoslav edition of Buchenwald – Mahnung und Verpflichtung ("Buchenwald – Warning and Obligation"), and was on the advisory board of the Stradanja i otpori ("Suffering and Resistance") research project at the Institute of Contemporary History in Belgrade which researched the history of Yugoslav inmates in European concentration camps. In 1996 he published Buchenwald. Svjedocanstvo ("Buchenwald: A Testimony").
Tomislav Novak lives in Zagreb.