When courage prevails amazing things happen

It has been several months since Dr Esther Gitman’s book “When Courage Prevailed – the Rescue and Survival of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia” was published by Paragon House Publishers.

This is a historical study based on documented facts with the emphasis on the ways Jews survived and were rescued in the Independent State of Croatia (1941 – 1945) by Croatians, among others, who put their own lives in great peril in order to help Jews.

This work by Esther Gitman is a testament to the fact that while many in Croatia during WWII sided with the Nazi regime in terrible persecution of Jews there were also many who opposed it and acted on their conscience, held onto courage, and saved many Jews.

This side of the Croatian truth has been suppressed from the worldwide media for a very long time, and only those who searched for it could find it in rare publications.

In June 2011 Pope Benedict XVI visited Croatia as the final stage before Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac is declared a Saint by the Roman Catholic Church. Alojzije (Aloysius) Stepinac was among those who risked life and liberty to ensure the survival of the innocent.

He waged his own wars on Communism, fascism and, most of all, the evils of Nazism. As communists held power in Yugoslavia after WWII ended in1945 they brought church leaders to trial, charged with collaboration with the Ustashe and complicity in their crimes.

Certainly the trial was in no way near the fair trials and due processes we know today in democratic societies guided by just laws.

Archbishop Stepinac was tried and convicted in 1946. He died in 1960 under house arrest having written thousands of letters defending the Church and denouncing Communism.

In June 2011 a documentary film “When Truth Prevails”, written and directed by New York based journalist Jadranka Juresko-Kero, on Esther Gitman’s work, was shown on Croatian television HRT. The film is produced by the Zagreb based company Interfilm and television station HRT.

Dr Esther Gitman

Dr Gitman embarked upon scientific research for her PhD dissertation in New York in 1999. She decided to dedicate her dissertation work exclusively to the courageous Croatians who had saved Jews in the Independent State of Croatia and to Stepinac.

She had never heard of Stepinac until her dissertation work took her to the Croatian national archives in Zagreb where she uncovered numerous mislaid boxes that contained tens of thousands of unprocessed documents that talk of his honourable activities during the war.

Esther Gitman was born to a Jewish family in Sarajevo from which she fled with her mother during 1941. She has been living in New York since 1972.

Sixty one years after fleeing Sarajevo Esther Gitman came to Zagreb in 2002 as an American scientist where, with the aid of the Fulbright Scholarship, she spent one year researching the theme of the rescue of Jews from the Independent State of Croatia.

She uncovered previously unknown historical documents that confirm Stepinac’s perseverance in rescuing endangered Jews, especially during World War II.

Such research had previously been “forbidden” or politically unsuitable and “uninteresting” to all historians in the former Yugoslavia as well as for those in modern-day Croatia who had written about the Jewish Question during the WWII  Independent State of Croatia.

Filmed in New York, Zagreb and Sarajevo, the film reconstructs the personal and scientific paths Esther Gitman walked to understand the truth about the rescued members of her people in the Independent State of Croatia.

Dr Gitman’s message is that the rescue of the Jews in the Independent State of Croatia and the role played by Archbishop Stepinac deserve internationalisation so that the whole truth is known about the Croatian people who helped rescue the Jews during WWII. Dr Gitman does not mitigate the terrors and the crimes perpetrated by the Ustashi when the Independent State of Croatia held power. She emphasizes that there is always hope to conquer evil if there are good and decisive people who love a human being as a human being and not for his or her racial or religious belonging.

When courage prevails amazing things happen.

Truth prevails in spite of everything. Ina Vukic, Prof.(Zgb), B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. Esther Gitman says:

    Dear Ina,

    My name is Esther Gitman and I would like to thank you for taking the time to review my book. I, |like most children who survived the Holocaust and remembered little, in my youth had no interest in listening to survivors’ stories. Similarly, the survivors, who saw and experienced on their own flesh the atrocities, lacked the emotional strength to share their travails with others. It was only in the 1960s that serious research in this area commenced and the focus and the urgency were placed on naming the perpetrators and on identifying their brutalities and the carnage of the WWII era. Rescue in this scheme of things had the lowest priority.
    It is not surprising that rescue was ignored , after all, out of the 39,500 pre-war Jewish population in Croatia and BiH|which comprised the Independent State of Croatia, Nezavisna Država Hrvatska in short NDH 9,500 survived, while 75 percent perished.
    In my mid-50s, however, I was consumed by the desire to understand and find out, how and by whom I and others were rescued and why we survived, while many others perished?
    My 2001 proposal to the Fulbright Committee began the seminal research on the rescue of Jews. It was possibly a brazen move on my part to even consider the possibility of efforts to rescue Jews in NDH, but I was greatly encouraged by my early findings that even in the darkest hours| in world history, there were bright sparks of light in NDH, thanks to those, like your father, who were determined to defy dictators such as Hitler, Mussolini and Pavelić and his Ustaše.
    I’ve not found those individuals who helped my mother survive but I found that rescue was prevalent despite the difficulties experienced at every step of the way. It took a great courge to be a rescuer and it also took a great courge to be a survivors. To leave home and family behind and run towards the unknown was difficult but most those who escaped and accepted assistance survived. It is an honor to have you on my side. Please add a part of your article in the Amazon review section.
    Thank you again and I hope to meet you,

    Esther Gitman


    • Dear Esther,
      As a person of Croatian descent, it is truly amazing to connect with people like yourself who pursue the truth and the bright parts in a dark history. That is what gives us courage and embeds bright sparks into a battered profile of a nation. Croatia in the Second World War had masses of good people who did not align with any of the two major side (Ustashi & Communists). These were the Home guards (Domobrani, about whom I intend to write) and ordinary citizens – their only pursuits were for Croatia, the nation of decent, hard working people who help others in need. Hundreds of thousand who fled Croatia after WWI and WWII have certainly proved that in Western countries where they and their descendants contribute much to the welbeing of the countries they reside in. It is such a distressing reality that this side of Croatian people has been largely suppressed. Ina Vukic


  2. Esther Gitman says:

    This is my second entry to this website. My objective is to correct a statement made in the above article “Croatian people whose courageous representatives were the only ones in Europe during World War II to openly oppose Hitler’s racist laws.” The research on the Holocaust is an ongoing process and thus the above statement is not and cannot be correct. However it can be stated that the Croatian citizens from all walks of life wrote petition letters requesting of the regime to release from Concentration Camps and detention centers their friends and neighbors. I found over 400 such letters each signed by as few as 5 to 187 and to the best of my knowledge such letters were not found in other courntries under Nazi occupation.
    We cannot start making general statement that may lead people to believe that all the Croatians were righteous. The Ustashe (Croatian Fascists) were murders and many ordinary citizens were silent bystanders who were unable or unwilling to act on behalf of those who were shipped off to Jasenovac and other death camps.
    I think that for the credibility of the above article Ms. Ina Vukic must remove the above mention statement because in many countries, even in Germany there were individuals that were openly opposed to racial laws.
    Sincerly your,
    Esther Gitman, Ph.D.


  3. Thank you Esther I shall correct the article.


  4. i tuoi post sono davvero interessanti
    grazie e buongiorno



  1. […] has been over two years since the release of Dr Esther Gitman’s book “When Courage Prevailed: The Rescue and Survival of Jews in the Independ… (see links to the book in the left margin of this blog website Home […]


  2. […] at the City University, New York and the findings of her research are summarized in her book “When Courage Prevailed,” translated into the Croatian language and published by Christian Actuality in 2011. The book […]


  3. […] at the City University, New York and the findings of her research are summarized in her book “When Courage Prevailed,” translated into the Croatian language and published by Christian Actuality in 2011. The book […]


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