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Dr. Srdja Trifković
The history of the Second World War is rich in general overviews and specialist studies, but in Southeastern Europe we encounter an exception of long standing. Yugoslavia’s bellum omnium contra omnes in 1941-5 should be a rewarding area of specialist interest, now that most archives are accessible and travel unrestricted, but both remain curiously under-researched. The absence of an authoritative corpus in the western academe has been aggravated by two phenomena. One is the reluctance of historians in the successor states to come to grips with such delicate subjects as collaborationism and mass murder, or at least their reluctance to do so without ethnic blinkers and revisionist temptations. The other is the tendency of foreign scholars who take an interest in the region to view events of 1941-5 through the prism of their current preferences and affinities. This often translates into foreign scholars’ predilection for one or another form of nationalist narrative.
The problem of Serb-Croat relations, burdened by an ambiguous legacy of earlier centuries, was greatly aggravated by the creation of the Yugoslav state in 1918. Those relations probably would have remained ambivalent but tractable had the two nations not been brought under the same roof at the tail-end of their transition to modernity. Yet the disputes between Serbs and Croats, two linguistically similar but historically, ethnically and culturally distinct peoples, are by no means a modern phenomenon. The seeds of the perennial Serb-Croat quarrel in the Yugoslav era were sown long before 1918.
The legal status, exemptions and privileges of the Habsburg Military Border (Militärgrenze), with its many Serb Orthodox soldier-farmers, were detested by the Croatian nobility and ecclesiastical hierarchy from the moment the Border was formed in the 16th century to the time it was dissolved in 1881. By that time, the resentment had spread beyond the neofeudal elite and gave rise to the ideology of Croatian state rights (Pravaštvo). It included the dual claim that the Serbs in Croatia were, or should be, Orthodox Croats who perforce belonged to the Croatian “political nation”; and that those who rejected such designation were racially inferior subhuman “breed” whose elimination was essential to Croatia’s national survival. The key tenets of this ideology were in place more than half a century before the creation of Yugoslavia. Enriched between the world wars with the novel notion of racially distinct Croatdom, it found its radical expression in the Ustaša movement of Ante Pavelić.
“Croatia became during the war a giant slaughterhouse,” as Ernst Nolte has noted. The enormity of Ustaša crimes against Serbs, Jews and Roma made the Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna država Hrvatska, NDH) – their bid to turn a multiethnic and multiconfessional amalgam into an integrated monoethnic state – became the main source of military and political instability in the Axis occupation system in the region. It materially affected the outcome of the war by turning the Western Balkans from a potential asset into an actual liability for the Third Reich. The striving for ethnic, cultural and political uniformity through ethnic cleansing was not uncommon in Nazi-dominated Europe. The remarkable Ustaša bloodlust nevertheless makes the Croatian variety of “native fascism” distinctly sui generis and sets it apart from other collaborationist regimes.
Ustašism alone produced a Quisling state with a fully autonomous mechanism of terror and extermination devoted to that end. Proportionate to the number of its victims, the Ustaša apparatus – technologically primitive and bureaucratically underdeveloped though it was – proved only marginally less efficient than the Nazi killing machine itself. This makes the “normalization” of the study of Ustašism difficult, just as the Holocaust studies still refuse to be “normalized.” An attempt to advance towards normalization is nevertheless possible and necessary. It need not end up either in trivializing the Ustaša movement’s grotesque record or in succumbing to the temptations of the historian’s prejudices. Perhaps a barrier will always separate us from the subject – to paraphrase Nora Levin, Jasenovac was indeed another planet – but the effort is intellectually and morally legitimate.
In November 1942 General Edmund Glaise von Horstenau, the Wehrmacht plenipotentiary representative in Zagreb, made an unscheduled visit to the Ustaša-run prison camp near the city of Sisak, where (as he had been informed by his assistant, Capt. Haeffner) many Serbs were being held under appalling conditions. He described the scene in his diary:
A terrible picture confronted me. There were but a few men, mostly women and children, all of them poorly clad, sleeping on bare stones. Not people, but naked skeletons… The camp commander – contrary to the praises heaped on him later by the Poglavnik – was an outright criminal. I ignored his presence. To my Ustaša escorts I commented: ‘When a man sees this, he can only vomit – nothing else, my gentlemen!’ The worst of all was yet to come: in a separate room, hastily concealed no doubt because of my ‘inspection,’ along the wall there were some fifty naked children laying on thinly spread straw. Some of them were already dead, and others were dying! … These houses of horror in Croatia, under their Poglavnik enthroned by ourselves, are the culmination of abhorrence. Jasenovac must be even worse, but no mere mortal can even have a glimpse of that place.
Glaise proceeded to the Serb-inhabited village of Crkveni Bok on the Sava River, where a day earlier he had dispatched a German tank platoon to protect the remaining inhabitants from the Ustašas: “It is an unhappy place where, under the leadership of an Ustaša lieutenant-colonel, some 500 country folk aged 15-20 had met their end. They were all murdered, the women raped and then tortured, the children killed outright.” As a former Habsburg officer, Glaise was horrified by the scene, but by late-1942 he could no longer be surprised by anything. More than a year earlier, in July 1941, he had made his first complaint about the “barbaric” Ustaša methods used against the Serbs who were “fundamentally outlawed.” Glaise’s trip to Sisak came only weeks after a Wehrmacht senior officer serving in northwestern Bosnia, Lt. Col. von Wedel, complained to him of a massacre of Serb women and children witnessed by the Germans. The Ustaša killed their helpless victims “like cattle,” von Wedel related, in a series of “bestial executions.”
At an even higher level of command, Obergruppenführer Arthur Phleps, commander of the 7. SS Mountain Division Prinz Eugen, had a similar complaint: “From the start the main Ustaša objective was to annihilate the Orthodox [Serbs], to butcher hundreds of thousands of persons, women and children.” Dr. Hermann Neubacher, Hitler’s foremost political expert for the Balkans, concurred: “The prescription for the Orthodox Serbs issued by the leader and Führer of Croatia, Ante Pavelić, was reminiscent of the bloody religious wars of yore: One third must be converted to Catholicism, another third must be expelled, and the final third must die. The last part of the program has been carried out.” General Bader, commanding German troops in Serbia, saw this annihilation as the goal not limited to the Ustaša regime: “There is no doubt at all that the Croats are endeavoring to destroy the entire Serb population.” According to a Gestapo report prepared for Himmler, “The Ustašas committed their bestial crimes not only against males of military age, but especially against helpless old people, women and children.”
It was unprecedented, even in the traumatized and brutalized Europe of the early 1940’s, to encounter a wave of violence so extreme as to shock and awe battle-hardened Wehrmacht and SS officers, Nazi diplomats, and Gestapo operatives. Yet the phenomenon behind that violence, Ustašism remains relatively little known and only scantily researched outside the former Yugoslavia. Its ideological roots exceed the intended scope of this paper, however. Suffice to say that the Ustaša ideology was entirely focused on the creation of a nation-state – for and by those belonging to the Croat community of descent, mystically linked by the blood of its alleged ancestors – and not on that state’s engagement in the quest for a metaphysical higher goal. While an Ustaša perceived an ethno-racially pure nation-state as his supreme objective, a German Nazi or an Italian fascist saw the state as a ready-made instrument of his Wille zur Macht. Fascism and Nazism were dynamic, ruthlessly modernizing movements. Ustašism was essentially static: it aimed for the creation of a nationally homogeneous, Serb-free Croat state.
By virtue of conspiratorial action and exiled leadership before April 1941 the Ustašas also fell outside mainstream fascism. The movement lacked the class basis provided elsewhere in Europe by coalitions between the traditional nationalist Right and Fascism in the struggle against Communism. Ustaša propaganda was a substitute for ideology, forced mobilization a substitute for participation. The notions of a “Dinaric” race with its allegedly inherent superior qualities were rudimentary and crude. Any ideological notions were secondary to the main focus: “Anti-Serbism had always been central to Ustaša ideology; in the words of one prominent Ustaša, it was ‘the quintessence of the Ustaša doctrine, its raison d’être.’” A man could not be bona fide Ustaša without embracing the exterminationist anti-Serb canon, even if he accepted all other elements of Ustaša “ideology” (anti-Semitism, the cult of peasantry, corporatism, Nordic-Dinaric racism etc.). Conversely, it was possible to be lukewarm on all non-Serb-related ideological tenets, but to adhere to genocidal anti-Serbism – and still to be a fully-fledged, bona fide Ustaša. A decade after coming into being, having reached power through the intervention of its external mentors, the Ustaša movement translated its raison d’être into practice. It destroyed half a million human lives by unimaginably savage means.
The Ustaša variety of Volksgemeinschaft was were distinctly nihilistic in its ideological underpinnings. The glorification of the racially pure Nordic-Dinaric Croat peasant, his social-Darwinian “natural justice” his only guidance, produced a cult of unbridled bloodlust. It was a clumsy mix of Nazi brutality and quasi-racism, fascist irrationality, and above all “oriental” primitivism. Within months following April 10, 1941, it turned Croatia into a pandemonium of bloody anarchy.
The twentieth century had witnessed a departure in the conduct of many European states away from the concept of natural morality that provided a salutary restraint on their behavior before 1914. The rise of totalitarian ideologies marked the end of an era that sought, over the previous century, to break away from the traumatic memory of the Terror in France, and insisted that physical elimination of an adversary is not a legitimate way of resolving a conflict. The decline of the religious impulse among Europeans created a gaping hole that was filled by ideologies uninhibited by religious restraints and motivated by the will to power. Before Lenin it was not some mere ‘expediency’ which had prevented states from resorting to mass extermination as a means to an end. The limitations on the behavior of states derived from an underlying consensus that raison d’etat entailed continued membership of the community of civilized nations.
The final break came in the midst of the ideological mobilization for Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union, with which the decision to embark on the Final Solution of the Jewish Question broadly coincided. From September 1939 until June 1941 Germany arguably was waging a traditional European war (ein europäisches Normalkrieg) against Britain and France; it only turned exterminationist with the Barbarossa. Until June 1941 the Wehrmacht swept across Europe like a well oiled machine, but the principles of warfare and the treatment of the vanquished did not appear to be fundamentally different from previous attempts at Continental hegemony by, say, Napoleon. Against the Soviets, both ideological and racial enemies, no laws applied, however: the war aimed at destroying not simply the Soviet government and its ability to wage war, but the rule of law.
There was a corner of Europe, however, where the war had stopped being “normal” well before the struggle in the East reached its existential climax. Pavelić’s Croatia was the first member of the New European Order to abandon the remnants of traditional restraints. The NDH was proclaimed on April 10, 1941, and an elaborate system of internal control and oppression was quickly established. On May 10, 1941, the Ustaša movement formally constituted an armed militia, Ustaška vojnica. Independent of the military arm were the powerful Ustaša Supervisory Service (Ustaška nadzorna služba, UNS) and the Ustaša police (Ustaško redarstvo). Separate from all of them stood the dreaded Directorate for Public Security, with its own network of agents and armed units. The speed with which those bodies were set up, and the human and material resources devoted to them, were indicative of the shape of things to come. As early as 17 April, Pavelić enacted the Law on the Protection of the People and the State, an all-embracing piece of quasi-legislation that made it “legal” to kill anyone the Ustaša regime wanted dead. The “law” had retroactive powers: a person could be guilty of having “offended” the state even before it came into being. Mobile court-martials were immediately established.
On April 18, 1941, Pavelić signed the first racial law, on “the Aryanization of Jewish property.” The NDH accomplished in the ensuing two weeks what it had taken the Nazi regime seven years to achieve in Germany. On April 30 he signed two ordinances – more stringent than the Nuremberg Laws – defining who is Jewish. The issue was handled by a Commission for Racial and Political Matters at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Decree on Racial Affiliation and the Decree on the Protection of the Aryan Blood and Honor of the Croatian Nation obliged all Jews to wear the Star of David and the letter Ž or the word Židov, Jew. The Jews were thus made visible in Croatia three months before they were forced to wear the star in Germany.
The Ustaša zeal was impressive. The Independent State of Croatia differed from other Nazi satellites in two important respects. The NDH was less confident of itself on the key issue of identity and rootedness than any other German ally. Admiral Horthy, Marshal Antonescu, King Boris and Monsignor Tiso were willing to stake their own and their regimes’ future on the success of Hitler’s gamble. They were uncomfortable, however, with his utopian vision; and sooner or later they all proved reluctant to become his fully-fledged partners in the Final Solution. Pavelić alone, among the Quislings, had no qualms and no reservations. For as long as he could have a free hand to destroy the Serbs – the primary raison d’etre of his movement and his state – he would deal with the Jews in the same manner.
For most ordinary Ustašas the Jews were but the collateral damage in the real war – the war against the Serbs. The Ustaša rank-and-file, coming mainly from the rural regions in the Dinaric mountains, had only a vague idea of “the Jew,” while a demonized image of “the Serb” was fully formed. In terms of the decision-making calculus, the slaughter of Croatia’s Jews was politically motivated. With the Serbs, the motive had no rational basis beyond raw hatred. Packaged as ideological anti-Semitism, anti-Jewish measures combined the regime’s desire to demonstrate its ideological bona fides to Hitler, to assert an area of independence vis-à-vis the Italians, and to confiscate the Jewish property: “Ordinary citizens also took part in this campaign wherever they could; indeed, the share of ‘private’ elements in the plunder was enormous – at least half of the property of which the Jews were robbed apparently never reached the state treasury but remained in the hands of individual Croatians.”
By January 1942, some two-thirds of the Croatian Jewry – about 26,000 persons – had been taken to Ustaša camps and killed on arrival or soon thereafter. In “permanently solving the Jewish question” the NDH was ahead not only of other satellites but of the Reich itself. In an interview with a German paper at the end of the summer of 1941, Pavelić could pledge that “the Jews will be liquidated within a very short time.” The destruction of some 15,000 non-Muslim Roma was peripheral to the project, but it was just as thorough. Mladen Lorković, an Ustaša “intellectual,” insisted that the Croatian nation has to cleanse itself from all elements that are its misfortune, foreign and alien to it, “our Serbs and our Jews.” The blending of Serbian and Jewish negative stereotypes was associated, soon after the Barbarossa was launched, with “Asiatic Bolshevism”: by conflating these groups together, the regime produced a racial counter-type, an easily identifiable enemy.
PREPARING FOR ANTI-SERB TERROR
The notion of resolving the Serb question in Croatia by radical violence had its roots in the relentless hostility of the Croatian estates, of the nobility and the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, to the Serbs’ special status and privileges in the Military Border, obtained from the Crown in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 1860’s that hostility was given an exterminationist articulation by Ante Starčević and was subsequently “democratized” through his Party of Rights. In the early 20th century the Rightist legacy was recomposed as an ideology of unadulterated Serbophobia by Josip Frank, rehearsed in the Kristallnacht-like anti-Serb demonstrations by “Frankists” (frankovci) in 1902, and tested in the aftermath of the assassination in Sarajevo in the summer of 1914.
In 1914-18 the Serbs suffered persecution but survived. The Dual Monarchy was a Rechtstaat after all, in spite of its many lapses. In the spring of 1941, shocked by the rapid collapse of Yugoslavia, the Serbs also displayed passivity and mute acceptance of the new order. The unspoken assumption was that the NDH was a somewhat less attractive re-enactment of Austria-Hungary and that the initial storm would pass. As they were to learn to their peril, however, in Pavelić’s state there was no rational correlation between a Serb’s thoughts or deeds, and the state’s attitude to him: the Ustašas refused to acknowledge that having a Serbian identity was not a political act or not a matter of deliberate choice. “There were no innocents” at Jasenovac, its commander, Vjekoslav “Max” Luburić, declared two decades after the war. They were guilty ab initio.
Ustaša émigrés returned from Italy on April 13 determined to kill as many Serbs as possible, as quickly as possible. Exactly two weeks later “Pavelić’s onslaught against the Orthodox Serbs… one of the most appalling civilian massacres known to history,” started on the outskirts of the city of Bjelovar, where 190 unarmed civilians were rounded up and shot on April 27-28. Similar ad-hoc mass executions were repeated in different areas throughout the month of May. It is noteworthy, in the photographs from this early period, that there were relatively few victims compared to the numerous and obviously proud perpetrators. By the summer the initiation and training of the novices would be over and the ratios reversed.
Before the bloodbath started in earnest in June and July, the ground was prepared with dozens of speeches by Ustaša officials at public meetings all over the NDH and in countless press articles advocating systemic violence. A German observer on the scene noted the wide circulation, as soon as the new regime took over, of time-tested slogans such as “Hang the Serbs on willow trees” (Srbe na vrbe), “there will be blood up to the knee,” or “we shall tear their babies out of their mothers’ wombs!” The imagery was crude: the so-called Serbs, subhuman Balkan scum, were unassimilable aliens inherently hostile to the Croatian people, to which they are inherently inferior, and to the Croatian state which they hate. The concluding message was frank: “Destroy them wherever you see them, and our Poglavnik’s blessing is certain,” declared Viktor Gutić, district Ustaša chief in Banja Luka. Pavelić’s minister of justice was equally clear:
This State, our country, is only for the Croats, and for noone else. There are no means which we will not be ready to use in order to make our country truly ours, and to cleanse it of all Serbs. All those who came into our country 300 years ago must disappear. We do not hide this as our intention. It is the policy of our State. In the course of its execution we shall simply follow the Ustaša principles.
In a famous speech in the town of Gospić, Mile Budak, Pavelić’s minister of education, said: “We have three million bullets for Serbs, Jews and Gypsies. We shall kill one third of all Serbs. We shall deport another third, and the rest of them will be forced to become Catholic.” The so-called Serbs, Budak added, are not any Serbs at all, but people brought by the Turks “as the plunderers and refuse of the Balkans… They should know, and heed, our motto: either submit, or get out!” Submission was not an option for most of the victims, however.
Some two hundred thousand Serbs who were deported to Serbia under the auspices of the the Ustaša State Directorate for Renewal, and unknown numbers of others who simply escaped, could consider themselves lucky. The program itself evolved beyond ethnicity, religion, and violence. The very term Serbian Orthodox was formally banned, together with the Cyrillic script. At the same time, in line with the parallel Ustaša claim that many of those “so-called Serbs” were originally Catholic Croats converted to Orthodoxy under the Ottomans, the rhetoric of the regime depicted them as apostates and traitors – implicitly not of alien racial stock after all – who had betrayed Croatia to foreign, i.e. Serbian interests. That these people were “actually” Serb was not an option. In practice, whether they were the offspring of mongrel aliens or former Catholic Croats who had accepted the Serb name by default, made little difference to the peasants of Lika, Kordun, Banija, northern Dalmatia, eastern Herzegovina… Either way, in the summer of 1941, they were collectively sentenced to death.
Hitler’s advocacy of “fifty years of intolerance” in Croatia, which he expressed to Pavelić at a meeting on 6 June 1941, finally set the scene for the slaughter. It is inconceivable, however, that the wave of bloody terror which engulfed the Ustaša state in the summer of 1941 would have been possible had Hitler wanted to put a stop to it. His encouragement to Pavelić had major long-term impact not because it induced the Poglavnik to do something he had not intended to do in any event, but because it gave him carte blanche to go all the way. In Berchtesgaden Hitler made Pavelić feel authorized to proceed with his attempted genocide of the Serb population.
The NDH needed no “legislation” for the prosecution to begin. With total power in the hands of Pavelić and his cohorts, and a growing body of Ustaša volunteers – 30,000 by the summer – willing to prove their worth, they could do literally as they pleased: pick up a Serb village, have it surrounded, order all inhabitants to gather in the local Orthodox church, tie them two by two, and either kill them on the spot, or throw them down a nearby karst pit, or send them to a death camp. By the bearly summer of 1941 such atrocities were taking place on a daily basis. In addition, from April to August 1941 a dozen major camps were established to handle huge numbers of deportees. The system of hastily constructed and rudimentally organized facilities, of which the one at Jasenovac was the most prominent, turned the NDH into “a land of concentration camps.” There are countless accounts of savage, sadistic murders of prisoners. Jadovno on Mt. Velebit was a death camp par excellence. With no accommodation facilities, no rations, no workshop, and no chance of survival for the condemned – who were thrown by the hundreds down a nearby mountain pit every day – Jadovno was a primitive precursor of the Vernichtungslager concept, perfected a year later at Treblinka, Sobibor and Birkenau. Some 30,000 victims took the one-way trip to Jadovno, tied with wire before leaving the transit jail at Gospić. Most inmates of other camps were moved on for extermination to the main camp system at Jasenovac. It became the hub of Croatia’s final solution of the Serb and Jewish problem.
The commitment to genocide as a good-in-itself distinguishes Hitler’s and Pavelić’s bloodbaths from other despotic regimes in history. Some Ustaša leaders freely acknowledged their priorities. In late 1942, the head of Ravsigur, Eugen-Dido Kvaternik told his old classmate, HSS activist Branko Pešelj, that he allowed for the possibility that Germany could lose the war and conceded the danger that in that case the Croatian state would cease to exist. However, he added in the course of a chance meeting, “regardless of the outcome of the war there will be no more Serbs in Croatia.” This “reality of any post-war situation,” Kvaternik said, would be fait accompli whoever turned out to be the victor. He regarded anti-Serbdom as “the quintessence of the Ustaša doctrine, its raison d’être.”
During the summer of 1941 most killings were taking place in the field by Ustaša flying squads, in towns and villages where the victims lived. Italian Zone II in the Adriatic hinterland northeast of Split and east of Zara was particularly badly hit. The commander of the (Italian) Sassari division reported that “population in some places was completely exterminated, after having been tortured and tormented”: “The horrors that the Ustasi have committed against the Serbian small girls is beyond all words. There are hundreds of photographs confirming these deeds … pulling of tongues and teeth, nails and breast tips (all this being done after they were raped).” A notorious massacre took place on July 30, 1941, in the town of Glina, in the region of Kordun, just north of the Demarcation Line. It was one of the largest single acts of mass murder to occur in Croatia in the blood-soaked summer of 1941. The exact numbers are disputed, ranging from at least 300 (cited at Nuremberg in 1946) to 1,200. The church was destroyed by the Ustaše shortly after the massacre.
Jasenovac was selected as the location of the largest camp for three main reasons. It is near the Zagreb-Belgrade main railway line, which facilitated bringing in the prisoners. The complex was surrounded by the rivers Sava, Una and Velika Struga, in the middle of the swampy Lonjsko Polje area, which made escape extremely difficult. Last but not least, on the southern, Bosnian bank of the Sava, the inaccessible and uninhabited Gradina location provided an ideal site for mass executions and for the concealment of the bodies. Most were executed by knife or club. The Jasenovac guards designed a special handle-less knife, the ‘Serb-cutter’ or kukičar (‘hooker’) for speedier slitting of throats. Epidemics ravaged the camp, especially typhus. Few prisoners who contracted the disease survived. Whenever the camp was full, the Ustaše would carry out mass executions of prisoners to release capacity. Repeatedly the inmates of Camp III-C were literally starved to death.
THE ROLE OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Following the proclamation of the NDH a major segment of the Catholic establishment in Croatia became de facto accomplices of the regime. Such designation was applicable even to the very top of the hierarchy. Alojzije Stepinac, the Catholic archbishop of Zagreb and a vocal nationalist, conferred respectability on the Ustaša regime by his immediate approval of the new government: „Without the urging of prelates and priests, many Croats, who otherwise would have turned their backs on the Ustaša atrocities, allowed themselves to be co-opted by Pavelić’s regime.
The clerical press compared the proclamation of the Independent State of Croatia with the Risen Savior. “Holy is this year of the resurrection of the independent Croatian state! The gallant image of our Leader appeared in the heavens. It can and must be said of him that his is a man of Providence.” His work is also “the work of God and Providence.” The Ustaša were also endowed with divine blessings: “From the first day of its existence the Ustaša movement has been fighting for the victory of Christ’s principles, for the victory of justice, freedom, and truth. Our Holy Saviour will help us in the future as he has done until now, that is why the new Ustaša Croatia will be Christ’s, ours, and no one else’s.”
On April 28, 1941, Archbishop Stepinac issued a pastoral letter in which he called on the clergy to take part in the “exalted work of defending and improving the Independent State of Croatia,” the birth of which “fulfilled the long-dreamed-of and desired ideal of our people.” The letter was read in every Croatian parish and over the radio. The clergy hardly needed encouragement: from the outset Pavelić enjoyed their support. This phenomenon was noted by various Axis officials in the field. The German Security Service (SD) expert for the Southeast, Dr. Wilhelm Hoettl, noted that forced conversions from Orthodoxy to Catholicism figured prominently in the agenda of the Roman Catholic hierarchy from the outset: “Since being Croat was equivalent to confessing to the Catholic faith, and being Serb followed the profession of Orthodoxy, they now began to convert the Orthodox to Roman Catholicism under duress. Forced conversions were actually a method of Croatization.”
The role of Stepinac is still contentious. “A devout and austere man… distressed by the deportations and mass killing around him, Stepinac was no admirer of the Nazi and Fascist creeds beyond their authoritarian ideas and anti-Communism,” but for over two years “he refrained from open criticism of Pavelić’s blood-soaked rule and kept silent over the Ustaša murders of the Orthodox.” In what is cited by his apologists as a bold move, on May 24, 1942, Stepinac declared from pulpit that “all men and races are children of God,” specifically mentioning “Gypsies, Black, European, or Aryan” – but no Serbs. He did not mention the main victims by name – not even once – for the rest of the war. After two and a half years of Ustaša rule, on October 31, 1943, Stepinac stated in a sermon that “there are people who accuse us of not having taken action against the crimes committed in different regions of our country. Our reply is… we cannot sound the alarm, for every man is endowed with his own free will and alone is responsible for his acts.” Under the circumstances this view amounted to an abdication of moral responsibility. No less contentiously, Stepinac stated that a “psychological basis should be created among the Orthodox followers” for the mass conversions to Catholicism: “They should be guaranteed, upon conversion, not only life and civil rights, but in particular the right of personal freedom and also the right to hold property.” He did not appear to think, that those rights were due to the unconverted Serbs.
Stepinac’s primary fault was in his failure to take an open stand against the bloodbath and terror. By not doing so he has failed not only his universal duty to the victims, but also his pastoral duty to his own people. His silence had facilitated the descent into mortal sin of many of his flock. Stepinac’s failing was also in his timid attitude to those members of the Croatian clergy who openly identified with the Ustaša regime, to the point of taking an active part in the genocide. The attitude of the Catholic Church in Croatia also depended on the attitude of pope Pius XII: whether he would express his disapproval of the terror. This did not happen: “When the Ustaša launched their massacres, the Holy See took no overt measures to bring them to a halt.” Until the end of the war the Vatican never denounced them:
Pius and his advisors were willing to ignore Croatian concentration camps and murders because Pavelić’s state was a fledgling concern that needed time to develop into a bulwark of Catholicism in the Balkans… Because Pavelić so eagerly sought Vatican diplomatic recognition and led a movement of zealous Catholics, Pius had the leverage to force Pavelić and the Ustaše to stop murdering Serbs and Jews. The Vatican never attempted to use this leverage to prevent this genocide. Pius XII never condemned the destruction of the Serbian and Jewish population in Croatia, even though he held great sway over Pavelić and his followers.
Encouraged by the hierarchs’ passivity tantamount to tacit approval, some priests abandoned all pretense of restraint. Fr. Dragutin Kamber, SJ, as the Ustaša trustee in the city of Doboj, in central Bosnia, personally ordered the execution of hundreds of Serbs. Fr. Perić of the Gorica monastery instigated and participated in the massacre of 5,600 Serbs in Livno and the surrounding villages. He encouraged the local Ustaša to start the slaughter with his own sister who was married to a Serb. All over Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina the Franciscan monks, parish priests and lay activists joined Ustaša ranks en masse. Some members of Catholic clergy in Croatia allowed themselves to be metamorphosed “into thorough-going butcher-leaders.” The military exploits of some, such as Fr. Ilija Tomas of Klepac, were hailed in the press. Another widely praised role-model was Dr. Radoslav Glavaš, “a young and energetic Franciscan” and Ustaša leader at Široki Brijeg. By making their terror public in wide areas, especially south of the Sava, the Ustašas also sought to instill such fear among the remaining Serb population that their flight to Serbia or conversion to Catholicism would be facilitated.
THE USTAŠA AND THE HOLOCAUST
The Croatian Holocaust depended on a host of middlemen comprising the social and intellectual establishment. They helped create the Stimmung which mediated and legitimized the Ustaša variety of the Final Solution. The Holocaust, understood as the unprecedented program of mass murder in German-controlled Europe of entire populations defined by ‘race,’ ethnicity and religion, was the product of Nazism but it was launched in Croatia and Bosnia in the late spring and early summer of 1941. Pavelić’s Ustaša regime was the first to apply the concept of genocidal terror and extermination; the Einsatzgruppen came later. The key similarity between the Ustašas and the Nazis was their destructive nihilism. Just as the military goals of Barbarossa were incidental to the objective of exterminating Jews, enslaving Slavs and creating the Lebnsraum, so the formal enlistment of Croatia into the ranks of Axis-sponsored New Europe was incidental to the Ustašas’ central purpose of eliminating all Serbs from the Greater Croatia.
Nazi totalitarianism was based on a fluid definition of the state, whose borders could expand eastward, at least, practically without limits, while those of the NDH ended on the Drina. There were also major differences in methods and conceptual approaches to killing. The Nazi Holocaust adopted the style and methods of a developed industrial state: an administrative network connected different agencies and levels of responsibility. Complex killing equipment was designed, tested and used. Ustaša terror was mostly traditional in its tools of execution. Nazi system included plans, reports, lists, statistics. The Ustaša apparatus of terror functioned in an arbitrary manner, with a random selection of targets and methods of killing. Nazi terror was for the most part depersonalized, bureaucratic. It was cold and abstract, and “excesses” and “sadism” were frowned upon. The Ustašas were direct and personal, and extreme sadism was the norm. Some aspects of Nazi terror – with its somber discipline and bureaucratic pedantry – were “puritanical,” whereas the Ustašas engaged in orgies of slaughter.
The German “final solution” started far away in the East, in the summer of 1941, by a small number of Einsatzgruppen. The Ustaša terror started earlier and was open, explicit. It was happening by broad daylight, in the middle of towns and villages. It was calculated to involve as many Croat and Muslim civilians as possible, through the distribution of Serb land and property. Fr. Mate Moguš, the Roman Catholic parish priest in Udbina, thus told his congregation “These brave Ustašas have 16,000 bullets to kill 16,000 Serbs, after which we shall divide their fields among us in a brotherly manner.” While many Germans could plausibly claim ignorance of what was being done to the deported Jews in Poland, few Croats or Muslims could have harbored such doubt as entire Serb communities were brutally slaughtered. By making their terror public in wide areas, and especially in the Dinaric regions of the Krajina and Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Ustašas sought to make inter-communal breach irreversible. Their goal was to eliminate all Serbs; their inability to do it on a truly industrial scale was a key factor hindering its achievement.
Far from contributing to the Axis war effort, the terror unleashed by the Ustaša regime helped the enemies of both the NDH and the Third Reich. Extermination of the Serb was to be pursued even if this endangered vital state interests and played into the hands of real enemies, by causing mass uprisings and by creating conditions for the rise of insurgency, under whatever banner. This disregard for their own rationally understood interests indicated that the Ustaša and Nazi leaders considered genocide a fundamental duty that transcended the importance of victory itself. Such fundamentalist commitment to genocide distinguishes Nazism and Ustašism from other despotic regimes in history. There had been several episodes of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans before 1941, notably in the aftermath of the anti-Ottoman uprisings in the 1800s and following the Greco-Turkish war of 1919-22. The Ustaša terror was without precedent, however, in that it blended local nation-building with the pan-continental campaign of racial cleansing unleashed by Hitler. The result was the first attempt at a final solution in the Second World War.
One of the first reports on “the increasing anti-Serb terror by the Ustašas” reached Berlin on July 2, 1941. It was a report by the special representative of the German Foreign Ministry in Zagreb, who stated that the regime looked on the Serbs in Croatia as a problem “which is under the exclusive competence of Ustaša police and court-martials.” Glaise von Horstenau was the first high-ranking German official in Croatia who realized that Pavelić wanted to kill or otherwise physically eliminate all Serbs. Glaise’s chief information gatherer was Captain Haeffner, his assistant, who had lived in Zagreb for many years, spoke the language, and had good contacts throughout Croatia. Haeffner’s reports contained graphic eyewitness accounts and evidence collected by the Germans According to his pedantic computations, the number of Serbs “who have fallen as victims of animal instincts fanned by Ustaša leaders” exceeded 200,000 by the beginning of August 1941.
The issue of actual numbers of Serb victims in the NDH is still a matter of political and scholarly controversy. Estimates of the number of Serbs killed, made by German and Italian officials during the war, were staggering. In a report to Himmler, SS General Ernst Frick estimated that “600 to 700,000 victims were butchered in the Balkan fashion.” General Lothar Rendulic, commanding German forces in the western Balkans in 1943-1944, estimated the number of Ustaša victims to be 500,000: “When I noted to a high official close to Pavelic that, in spite of the accumulated hatred, I failed to comprehend the murder of half a million Orthodox, the answer I received was characteristic of the mentality that prevailed there: ‘Half a million, that’s too much – there weren’t more than 200,000!’”
We will never know the true figures, “in part because so many perpetrators worked to destroy the evidence, in part because so many of the events took place spontaneously and without the rigorous record keeping that marked the Nazi administered Holocaust.” Non-native scholars place the number of Serb victims at between one-third and one-half of a million. Four hundred thousand Serb victims is at the lower end of a reliable estimate. According to Yad Vashem’s Shoah Resource Center, “More than 500,000 Serbs were murdered in horribly sadistic ways (mostly in the summer of 1941), 250,000 were expelled, and another 200,000 were forced to convert to Catholicism.” Sabrina P. Ramet has the figure of 487,000 murdered Serbs, as well as 27,000 Gypsies and 30,000 Jews. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s recent estimate of “up to 400,000 Serb civilian victims of Ustaša genocide, roughly one-half of them women, children, and old people” broadly corresponds to the “scholarly consensus” of statistical researchers whose work provides empirically valid guidance in the absence of useful extermination records.
This figure is truly staggering, even compared to the Nazi Holocaust. In 1941 the Greater German Reich was a superpower with 80 million Germans, 12 million of them in uniform and eight million in the Nazi Party. It killed an estimated 18 million European civilians between June 1941 and May 1945, just over one-half of them Slavs and up to one-third Jews.
In 1941, by contrast, the Independent State of Croatia was an underdeveloped and unconsolidated state with just over three million Catholic Croats and some 30,000 men in Ustaša uniform, growing to 100,000 (albeit no longer an all-volunteer force) by 1944. Between April 1941 and May 1945 it killed half a million civilians four-fifths of them Serbs. Between 75 and 80 percent of all Croatian and Bosnian Jews were dead by the end of the war and over 90 percent of Gypsies.
Its many weaknesses notwithstanding, the Ustaša state made a disproportionate contribution to the Holocaust. Among the satellites it provided an unsurpassed example of state criminality, on a par only with the criminality of the Third Reich itself. In the end the victims of the Ustaša, no less than the victims of the Nazis, were all of humanity, for it was the value of humanity that both were out to annihilate.
There is an important final difference between Germany and Croatia, however. Germany has been confronting the darkest episode in its history for almost seven decades now. Only an insignificant fringe still holds that the episode did not happen, or that it was not all that dark, or both. Croatia, by contrast, has yet to confront squarely the darkest episode in its own history. The Ustaša Weltanschauung, even when formally disowned, remains internalized by a significant segment of Croatia’s society in general and by its political, academic, media and ecclesiastical establishments in particular. The Ustaša criminality is measured not only by the numbers of dead Serbs, Jews and Gypsies, but also by the impact of their crimes on the society at large. That impact remains enormous, seven decades after the deed.
His power secure and absolute, after 1945 Tito tried to force all “Yugoslavs” to invest their memories of the war into the common bank of the National Liberation Struggle (NOB) and Fascist Terror as equal shareholders, and to draw the common dividend of brotherhood and unity. Tito’s edifice came to be built on three fictions:
- The myth of the constituent nations’ equal contribution to the Partisan victory in the ‘National Liberation Struggle.’
- The myth of equal suffering of all under the occupiers and their domestic servants.
- The equating of the Četniks with Pavelić’s Ustašas as morally equivalent.
The Serbs were not allowed to be personalized as victims and the Ustašas were seldom named as perpetrators. Countless markers and monuments in Lika, Kordun, Banija, or Bosnia and Herzegovina memorialized the “victims of the terror by occupiers and their domestic servants,” followed by long columns of Serbian names. The state narrative could not prevent or outweigh the impact of personal and family ones, however, which for the Serbs became part of an underground national narrative.
While politically expedient for the Communist dictator, this policy assured that there would be no atonement and no internal reconciliation. It curtailed public discussion and scholarly discourse on the Ustaša legacy; “The West, meanwhile, bankrolled prominent Ustaše reborn as anti-communist agents, while America’s popular consciousness all but forgot about the Balkans until Yugoslavia imploded.” The new communist regime was not, of course, officially anti-Serb; but its principle of ‘brotherhood and unity’ had as its chief practical consequence a massive official coverup of Ustaša crimes in the name of ideological Gleichschaltung. The anti-Serb tenor of the Comintern’s pre-war slogans about royal Yugoslavia was reflected in the assumptions on which the second, Communist Yugoslavia was based. Two provinces were granted autonomy within Serbia, but the Serbs of the old Military Border did not get anything approaching autonomy within Croatia.
Tito’s Yugoslavia was built not on the principle of a-nationality or supra-nationality, but on arbitrary territorial adjudications which would have been impossible at any point between 1918 and 1941. The Serbs of western Yugoslavia, who had provided the core fighting force of the Partisan movement, were assured that those arrangements did not matter since the Yugoslav state remained in place. De-Nazification never took place in Croatia.
In 1990-91 it was hardly imaginable that the Serbs should not take up arms against a regime in Zagreb which was reviving the symbols, slogans, and atmosphere of the Ustaša state. Their fears were kindled by the government of Franjo Tudjman which came to power in April 1990 after the first multiparty election since 1938. It was composed of nationalists whose stated goal was to reconcile the legacy of the Croatian Partisans and their Ustaša opponents. Tudjman’s successor as president, Stjepan Mesić, thus declared that Croatia had scored a victory twice in the Second World War, first in 1941 and then again in 1945. Tudjman readily affirmed that the NDH reflected the legitimate, centuries-old aspirations of the Croat people. The war which broke out in August 1991 had the traumatic collective memory of the NDH as its key cause. Its final act came on August 4, 1995, when Operation Storm was launched by the Croatian army and police.
The Ustaša legacy is a Serbenfrei Croatia. It is kept alive not only by the skinhead fringe at Thompson’s concerts and the Black Legion lookalikes at Bad Blue Boys’ soccer rallies, but also by the political, academic, ecclesiastical, cultrual and media establishments. They, too, have internalized a host of similar assumptions and preferences, but they no longer require explicit symbolism and terminology of seven decades ago. Steadily reduced from a quarter of Croatia’s population before 1914 to a sixth after 1945 and a seventh in 1991, the Serbs today account for fewer than five percent.
Europe may have moved beyond blood-and-soil atavism, west of the Oder at least, but in the Balkans the old heart of darkness keeps beating. After the decline of higher cynicism in the name of Human Progress, benevolent tolerance by the “international community” of that legacy reflects the ascent of higher cynicism in the name of Human Rights. Some important Westerners may prefer to look forward, to forget, minimize, or even deny, the fruits of the Croatian Holocaust of 1941-45 and its revived legacy of 1995. The endeavor is flawed. Sins unatoned for will continue coming back to haunt us. To paraphrase a warning about another ghost from Europe’s not too distant past, we are not yet finished with Pavelić.
Banja Luka, February 2013
- Peter Broucek. En General im Zweilicht: Die Erinnerungen von Edmund Glaise von Horstenau, Vol 3. Wien 1998, p. 167. ↑
- Gert Fricke. Kroatien 1941-1944: Die “Unabhängige Staat” in der Sicht des Deutschen Bevollmächtigen Generals in Agram, Glaise v. Horstenau. Freiburg: Rombach Verl. 1972, p.39 ↑
- 714. Division, Operations Staff, “Activity Report: Recent Fighting,” NA, T-315, Records of German Field Commands. Translated and quoted by Jonathan Gumz (2008). ↑
- OKW Tagesbuch. Nr. Ia/545, 44 J.G. ↑
- Hermann Neubacher. Sonderaufrag Südost 1940-1945. Bericht eines fliegenden Diplomaten. Goettingen: Muster-Schmidt-Verlag, 1957, p. 18. ↑
- Karl Hlinicka. Das Ende auf dem Balkan 1944/45: Die Militärische Räumung Jugoslawiens durch die Deutsche Wehrmacht. Goettingen: Musterscheudt, 1970, p. 187. ↑
- PA, Büro RAM, Kroatien, 1941-42, 442-449. IV/D/4. ↑
- There are but a dozen books and major journal articles in English by non-native authors specifically dealing with the Independent State of Croatia or the Ustaša movement. Half a century after being written, the pioneering Der kroatische Ustascha-Staat, 1941-1945 by Hungarian diplomat and journalist Ladislaus Hory and German historian Martin Broszat (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1964) remains unavailable in English. ↑
- Mark Biondich, “Persecution of Roma-Sinti in Croatia, 1941-1945.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum – Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, Roma and Sinti: Under-Studied Victims of Nazism, Washington D.C. 2002, p. 33. ↑
- The killing of roughly 400,000 Serbs (approximately one-fifth of the NDH population) was a case of attempted rather than accomplished genocide. It was not completed due to the Serbs’ armed resistance and Italian and German restraining policies rather than for the want of Ustaša zeal. The killing of 30,000 Jews (75 percent) and 25,000 Roma (90 percent) was indeed genocide: both groups were substantially eradicated beyond the possibility of recovery. ↑
- The 40,000 Jews of Croatia lived mainly in four cities: Zagreb (11,000), Sarajevo (10,000), Osijek (3,000), and Bjelovar (3,000). Two-thirds were Ashkenazim and the rest Sephardim. ↑
- As early as May 3, 1941, Hrvatski narod explained the racial law decrees by stressing that the NDH was a nation-state in which only Aryans had the right to occupy positions of responsibility and to direct its destiny. ↑
- “Croatia,” by Menachem Shelah. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1990, p. 323-4. ↑
- Ibid, p. 324. Several hundred Jews, about one percent, were exempt as “Honorary Arians” for their past services to the Croatian nation and the Ustaša movement. Some were at least temporarily safe because they were considered indispensable to the Croatian economy or because of their professional expertise (notably doctors). The non-religious Mischlingen married to non-Jews were exempt, like in Germany. Several thousand Jews were able to flee to the Italian zone, where they were protected by the Italian Army until September 1943. ↑
- Hrvatski narod, July 28, 1941. ↑
- Cf. the suggestion by the Zagreb diocesan official, Ambroz Kuzmić (November 13, 1700), that the “Vlachs” should be “slaughtered, rather than allowed to settle down.” ↑
- Because of his Jewish roots, however, Frank was ignored by the Ustaša propaganda. ↑
- Ivan Mužić (ed.), Maček u Luburićevu zatočeništvu. Split : Laus, 1999, pp. 71-72. ↑
- John Cornwell. Hitler’s Pope. The Secret History of Pius XII. New York and London: Viking, 1999, p. 249. ↑
- See Fikreta Jelić-Butić: HSS. Zagreb 1983, p. 47. ↑
- Dr. Josef Matl in Iskra (Munich), March 20, 1959. ↑
- Hrvatski narod, July 11, 1941. ↑
- From a speech by Dr. Milovan Žanić. Novi list (Zagreb daily), 3 June 1941. ↑
- Neither option was in fact made available, in subsequent months and years, to the hundreds of thousands of Serbs affected by Ustaša cleansing operations. ↑
- Jonathan Gumz, “German Counterinsurgency Policy in Independent Croatia, 1941-1944.” The Historian, Vol. 61 (1998). ↑
- Hory and Broszat, op. cit. p. 15. ↑
- A camp on Pag Island in the Adriatic was established in June 1941 and dismantled two months later. An inquiry by the Italian army when it took control of the area in August 1941 reported that “shocking acts” had been committed there. Djakovo (in Slavonia), established in December 1941 and disbanded in June 1942, was used mainly to imprison women and children. Most of its inmates either died of typhus or were transferred to Jasenovac to be killed on arrival. ↑
- Cf. Croatian historian Antun Miletić in Koncentracioni logor Jasenovac 1941-1945. Beograd: Narodna knjiga, 1986. ↑
- Izveštaj Državne komisije za utvrđivanje ratnih zločina okupatora i njihovih pomagača (1948). Arhiv Jugoslavije, 110-1. ↑
- Branko Pešelj to the author, Washington D.C., May 12, 1988. ↑
- Quoted by Michele Frucht Levy, “The Last Bullet…” (2009), p. 811. ↑
- Some communities were totally eradicated, such as the Serbian village Prkos, where all 434 victims are known by name. One half (216) were below the age of 18. See Damir Mirković. “Victims and Perpetrators in the Yugoslav Genocide 1941-1945: Some Preliminary Observations.” Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Vol. 7, No. 3, winter 1993, pp 317-332. ↑
- Il Tempo, Turin, September 10, 1953. ↑
- The latter figure is quoted by Tim Judah in The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia. Yale University Press, 2000, p. 127. ↑
- Fred Singleton, A Short History of the Yugoslav Peoples, Cambridge University Press, 1985, p. 177. It was never rebuilt, and some of the construction material was used after the Second World War to make a nearby hydroelectric dam. ↑
- There were exceptions to this rule, however. According to a survivor testimony at the 1999 trial in Zagreb of the former Jasenovac camp commander Dinko Šakic, “After the ‘Kozara (mountain in Bosnia) offensive’ in 1942, the Ustashi executed a ‘mass of women and children’ at Gradina … while men fit for labour were taken to the camp and assigned to labour groups. Because of the large number of women and children, the Ustashi did not kill them as usual, with mallets, knives and cudgels, but by machine-gun fire,’ Šaric said.” HINA (Croatian news agency) in English, April 15, 1999. ↑
- Izveštaj Državne komisije … (1948). Arhiv Jugoslavije (AJ), 110-1. ↑
- “The inmates there were left to starve to death. ‘There were cases of cannibalism at the time,’ Šarić said.” Report from the Šakic trial, HINA (Croatian news agency) in English, April 15, 1999. ↑
- See Carlo Falconi. The Silence of Pius XII. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1970. In his estimate, by July 1941 350,000 people had been killed in the NDH (p. 291). ↑
- H. James Burgwyn. Empire on the Adriatic: Mussolini’s Conquest of Yugoslavia, 1941-1943. New York: Enigma Books, 2005, pp. 52-53. ↑
- Vjesnik počasne straže Srca Isusova (The Herald of the Honorable Guard of the Heart of Christ), No. 5, 1941. ↑
- Glasnik biskupije bosanske i srijemske, No. 13, July 15, 1941. ↑
- Glasnik sv. Ante, December 12, 1941. ↑
- “Christ and Croatia,” in Nedelja (organ of the Crusader Fraternity), June 6, 1941. ↑
- Katolički List, April 28, 1941 ↑
- Walter Hagen. The Secret Front: the Story of Nazi Political Espionage. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1953, p. 238. ‘Hagen’ was Hoettl. ↑
- Burgwyn, op. cit. p. 53. ↑
- Over a year before Yugoslavia’s collapse, on January 17, 1940, Stepinac wrote in his diary: “The most ideal thing would be if the Orthodox Serbs were… to bend their heads before Christ’s Vicar, our Holy Father [the Pope].” ↑
- Bergwyn, op. cit. p. 54. ↑
- Robert McCormick, entry on Pius XII in History in Dispute, Volume 11: The Holocaust, 1933-1945. St. James Press, 2003, p. 193. ↑
- Falconi, p. 298. ↑
- Hrvatski Narod, 25 July 1941. ↑
- Hrvatski Narod, July 4, 1941. ↑
- For instance in Glina. Judah, op. cit. p. 127. ↑
- Moguš told the Zagreb Novi List on July 24, 1941, “Now the time has come to work with rifle and revolver.” ↑
- PA, Büro Staatssekretär, Kroatien, Bd. 1, No. 290. Veesenmayer to Berlin, 2 July 1941. ↑
- Kazimirović, op. cit. pp. 112-117. ↑
- Hlinicka, op. cit. p. 292. ↑
- Lothar Rendulic. Gekaempft, gesiegt, geschlagen. Welsermühl Verlag, Wels und Heidelberg, 1952, p.161. ↑
- Michele Frucht Levy. “For We Are Neither One Thing Nor The Other: Passing for Croat in Vedrana Rudan’s Night. Cultural Logic, 2009 <http://clogic.eserver.org/2009/Levy.pdf> ↑
- Michele Frucht Levy: “The Last Bullet for the Last Serb: The Ustaša Genocide against Serbs, 1941–1945.” Nationalities Papers, Vol. 37, No. 6, November 2009. She notes that “the concentration camp Jasenovac, notorious for the particularly grisly nature of its one-on-one tortures and murders, has come to symbolize the frustration of Jewish and especially Serb victims. Designated as an official memorial for all Yugoslav war victims, it thus buried the enormity of Serb suffering there and throughout the chain of concentration and holding camps in the NDH.” ↑
- Eastern Europe – Politics, Culture, and Society since 1939. Indiana University Press, 1998, p. 161 ↑
- R.J. Rummel. Democide: Nazi Genocide and Mass Murder. Rutgers, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1992. ↑
- Michele Frucht Levy, op. cit. ↑
- “In the Second World War, the Croats won twice and we have no reason to apologise to anyone. What they ask of the Croats the whole time, ‘Go kneel in Jasenovac…’ – we don’t have to kneel in front of anyone for anything! We won twice and all the others only once. We won on 10 April when the Axis Powers recognized Croatia as a state and we won for the second time because we sat after the war, again with the winners, at the victors’ table.” (Croatian news agency HINA in English, BBC Monitoring Europe, December 10, 2006) Five days later the Speaker of the Croatian parliament said on TV that he and then-president Mesić might have “possibly sung songs celebrating notorious Ustaša commanders Jure [Francetić] and [Rafael] Boban” during the 1990s. (HINA in English, BBC Monitoring Europe, December 15, 2006) It would have been unthinkable for a German politician, in the first decade of the 21st century, to be suspected of a similar transgression and yet to remain in office. ↑
- Speech at the First HDZ Convention, February 26, 1990. ↑
- The U.S. Department of State human rights report on Croatia (March 11, 2010) thus states matter-of-factly that Jasenovac was “the site of the largest concentration camp in Croatia during World War II, where thousands of Serbs, Jews, and Roma were killed” [emphasis added]. This claim is the exact moral and factual equivalent of asserting that “tens of thousands” of Jews and others were killed in Auschwitz or Treblinka. ↑
- Wir sind mit Hitler noch lange nicht fertig. John Lukacs, The Hitler of History. New York: Vintage Books, 1998, p. 1. ↑