I have always admired the work of Efraim Zuroff , founding director of the Israel Office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and those like him who made it their life’s task and purpose to deliver at least some justice for the millions of Jews who perished so horribly under the Nazi regime. It takes unselfish dedication to the justice for others, to justice for victims, to a profound love and respect for ones nation of people, and ultimately to the love of human beings to carry on the work Mr Zuroff has been doing for decades. Many Nazi war criminals were brought to answer for their crimes even if some themselves were at their own death-bed. No mercy for mass murderers! Rightly so.
But, my opinion on Mr Zuroff’s admirable resolve regarding pursuits and bringing to justice of mass murderers is now utterly shattered. I would like to think that I am not alone in this.
Last week Mr Zuroff sent a statement of support to Croatian antifascists, who vehemently criticised the arrest of Josip Boljkovac (communist Partisan, antifascist, WWII) on allegations of war crimes and mass murders in 1945.
“Efraim Zuroff warned that the world has witnessed in the last years dangerous attempts at historical revision of World War II that tries to downplay the guilt of those responsible for the Holocaust and similar crimes against civilians.
“Part of that campaign is to, without foundation, equalise the crimes of Nazis – or ustasche in Croatia – with the crimes committed by communists,” Zuroff said.”
It is deeply distressing that a man of Mr Zuroff’s stature is stooping so low and playing politics when it comes to abhorrent crimes against humanity. Almost 70 years after WWII Mr Zuroff is still on the hunt for Nazi criminals and no one has labelled his efforts as revision of WWII.
It would seem that just like Croatia’s former president, Stjepan Mesic, Mr Zuroff holds the opinion that those sides that won WWII have a licence to kill.
Leaving the genocide of Jews aside for the time being, it would seem that they haven’t given a second thought to the fact that there were millions of people who were murdered mercilessly just because they did not agree with the communist regime.
It seems these two gentlemen have conveniently forgotten that WWII had millions of other victims besides the Jews, thousands of cases of mass murders that have yet to receive justice and the perpetrators brought to justice. Just as Mr Zuroff has insisted that Nazi war criminals be brought to justice he should condemn any similar war crime committed out of political pursuits to grandeur, or any other pursuits for that matter.
The Soviet gulags (labour camps) led to the death of citizens of occupied countries such as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, as well as German prisoners of war (POWs) and even Soviet citizens who had been or were thought to be supporters of the Nazis but died before they could defend themselves. Sixty percent of Soviet POWs of the Germans died during the war. (North, Jonathan (January 2006). “Soviet Prisoners of War: Forgotten Nazi Victims of World War II”. HistoryNet.com. Weider History Group.
Richard Overy gives the number of 5.7 million Soviet POWs. Of those, 57 percent died or were killed, a total of 3.6 million.(Overy, Richard (2004). The Dictators: Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 568–69. ISBN 0393020304). The post-WWII world, particularly the West has almost forgotten about these atrocities.
“ The atrocities and horrors perpetrated by the Nazi’s and Japanese are well known and documented. Equally abhorrent, but far less well known, are the barbaric actions committed by the Allies, particularly in the aftermath of the war when power was being consolidated and centralized by the new Eastern European regimes.
In Yugoslavia, the anti-communist Croat population became the victims of one of the most vicious peacetime purges in the annals of western civilization. Operation Slaughterhouse relates, through a series of eyewitness accounts, the horrible suffering of the entire Croatian nation endured at the hands of Yugoslav Partisans.
The widespread and indiscriminate slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocents marks the history of then Communist-dominated Yugoslavia, whose rivers and fields were tainted by mutilated Croatian corpses, both military and civilian.
That these genocidal horrors went on without a world-wide outcry of protest is largely that the Americans were unaware of these horrors because the postwar Western press was only concerned with the ignominy of its conquered adversaries — and because the victors in any war are never accused of committing “atrocities”.
Perhaps the saddest legacy of those days is the refusal of the Western powers to acknowledge what went on in post-war Europe’s own back-door, leading to living memories of atrocity that resurfaced fifty years later when the Communist nation of Yugoslavia finally broke apart into the genocidal warfare perpetrated by the Serbs against their balkan neighbors, including, once again, the Croats. And perhaps one of the ironies of bloody civil war and “ethnic cleansing” is that the oppressed, given the chance, turn and commit reprisal oppressions and slaughters that they themselves have barely survived. ” (Midwest Book review of John Prcela’s book “Operation Slaughterhouse” ISBN-10: 0805937374 ISBN-13: 978-0805937374, www.amazon.com )
In saying the above and the loud protest by antifascists and now Mr Zuroff with regards to the arrest of Boljkovac in Croatia in relation to communist crimes, it is uplifting for the sense of true justice to have read an interview with the current minister of Internal affairs of Croatia, Mr Tomislav Karamarko to the Croatian cultural foundation website:
Asked about addressing harsh historical facts and crimes committed on both sides in Croatia during the 1991 – 1995 Homeland war, on the Croatian path to EU membership, Mr Karamarko said:
“…I’m thinking not only about those who had committed crimes on both sides during the Homeland war, but also about those who had, under the protection of the communist party, perpetrated crimes at the end and after WWII, killing innocent people. Some say – that was a long time ago, why dig up graves? So much suffering, so many filled pits, so many sealed destinies and innocent victims – all that without court hearing and justice. Can we really leave all that to oblivion? That would neither be just nor human!…”
Indeed Mr Karamarko, you have my vote any day! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb), B.A.,M.A.Ps. (Syd)
Related posts by Ina Vukic: