An old castle in a small village outside Zagreb
, that during WWII
was used by the Ustashe regime as a prison/concentration camp
, mainly to house Jews, communists and Serbs. There is a memorial stone outside, but the castle itself is currently not accessible.
More background info: Kerestinec is a small village to the west of Zagreb, whose name goes back to the Hungarian “kereszt” (meaning 'cross'). The castle at Kerestinec is also known as Erdödy Castle, after the Hungarian noble family that it was built for in the 16th century.
Its significance in terms of dark tourism stems from the time after 1941, when the Ustashe regime seized power in the newly formed Nazi
puppet state NDH (see under Croatia
!): the castle was taken over and from 19 April 1941 turned into a prison-cum-concentration camp to incarcerate the usual enemies of the Ustashe, i.e. primarily Jews, communists but also ethnic Serbs. Apparently there were separate sections for these groups of inmates within the castle (according to memorialmuseums.org). In total some 900 prisoners went through this camp in its short period of operation.
In July 1941, prisoners from the communist section organized a revolt and escape attempt. Only about a dozen managed to get away, while over 30 were shot on the run. Yet more prisoners were executed afterwards. The remaining Jewish inmates were eventually transferred to Jasenovac
, and the prison camp at Kersetinec was closed. Subsequently the premises were used as a training camp by the Ustashe militia.
The castle again became a place of incarceration and torture from November 1991 to May 1992 in the early phases of the Croatian War of Independence, when the Croatian Army used it as a detention centre for Yugoslav
Army soldiers as well as ethnic Serbs, both militia volunteers and civilians. The commander and guards accused of having been involved in torture of the inmates were later put on trial for war crimes.
A memorial stone that was erected for the victims of the Ustashe prison and especially to commemorate the escape attempt was destroyed in the 1990s, but a new one was erected in 2010. The castle itself, however, was left unused.
After many years of having stood abandoned, dilapidation had taken its toll, with damaged roofs letting in rainwater etc. and the whole estate having become overgrown. Some work has meanwhile been undertaken. The worst of the undergrowth around the castle has been cleared and roof repairs have prevented more water getting in. But there's still lots of work to do. And currently it does seem clear what will become of the castle in the long run, i.e. whether it will be turned into some sort of larger memorial (unlikely) or be given over to other uses.
What there is to see: Not all that much. The main thing is the memorial stone by the driveway leading to the front entrance of the castle. On this there's a short description in Croatian, and a list of names of victims.
The castle as such is now locked and inaccessible. You can only peek into a few open windows, and otherwise just walk around it and look at it from the outside. It's an almost square structure, with two large round towers on the corners at the front facing the road.
My guide told me, however, that until quite recently (I was there in April 2018) it had still been possible to enter the castle (possible “infiltrating” it, i.e. technically trespassing in that urban exploration way) and investigate the ruin's interior. This is no longer possible.
So all in all, there's actually very little to get out of the detour. But for those interested in paying their respects to the victims of the Ustashe, it's still a little pilgrimage that may be worth it. I, to be frank, thought I could possibly have done without it.
ca. 10 miles (15 km) west of Zagreb
in northern Croatia
Access and costs: not difficult to get to by car (or as part of a guided tour), but the interior is inaccessible; free.
If you have a car it's quite easy to get to the castle from Zagreb
: just get on the main west-bound motorway A3/E70 out of the city and take the first exit after the bridge across the Sava River and the intersection with the A2/E59. Kerestinec is signposted. At the end of the ramp turn left and after the bridge across the motorway turn right. About a mile (1.5 km) onwards, the castle will appear on your left. You can park opposite.
The memorial stone is on the other side of the road right by the driveway leading to the castle as such. You can walk around the castle, but access to the interior is currently not possible.
Time required: not long, currently at least. Maybe 15 to 20 minutes to view the memorial stone and wander around the castle. In the past, when you could still go inside you could probably have spent quite a bit longer here.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
see under Zagreb
Given the location right by the motorway, a short stop at Kerestinec Castle could be conveniently slotted in when driving from Zagreb to Ljubljana
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
see under Zagreb
- Kerestinec 1
- Kerestinec 2
- Kerestinec 3
- Kerestinec 4
- Kerestinec 5
- Kerestinec 6
- Kerestinec 7
- Kerestinec 8
- Kerestinec 9