Who will exorcise the ghost of Tito from Croatia: The Centre-Right or the Centre-Left?

Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and its founding leader dr Franjo Tudjman have often been portrayed in the media as a nationalist movement, imputing negative connotations. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/294990.stm ; http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3166.htm ;

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/yugo-hist4.htm ; http://articles.latimes.com/1990-10-30/news/wr-3437_1_civil-war)

General elections in Croatia will be held on 4th December 2011 and the centre-left-wing Kukuriku coalition (in English: “cock-a-doodle-doo” coalition) is running under the banner of coalition for change.

If the “cock-a-doodle-doo coalition wins one may expect that the great work Croatian Democratic Union (Centre-Right-wing) led government in Croatia has done so far on the issues of prosecuting Communist crimes will fade into nothingness.

Tito’s ghost will continue haunting Croatia, reconciling the dark past by processing Communist crimes during WWII and after so that future may shine will be stopped in its tracks! What a crying shame if it comes to that!

When it comes to the notion of nationalism, national pride, there has not been nor is there anything different in Croatia since 1990 (in the years when Croatian Democratic Union held power) to that which we find anywhere we look in the developed world.

National pride means being proud of one’s country or proud of oneself for being from a country. It can also take on the form of defending one’s country in times of need and standing by the country even in difficult times. It can also take on another form of national supremacy.

Certainly, when Croatian citizens (94%) voted to secede from Yugoslavia (1991) they did not imagine themselves to be the supreme nationality within multi-ethnic/multi-national Yugoslavia. They just wanted to free themselves from the heavy and oppressive chains that held them shackled to the communist Yugoslavia (and former Kingdom of Yugoslavia for that matter) where Serbian supremacy held firm grips.

National pride has been a constant companion to personal identity – everywhere in the world. Croatia is no exception.

In 2002, data from the International Social Survey Programme’s 24 nation ‘National Identity’ survey showed that people throughout the developed world feel national pride in several areas of public endeavours, contrary to most globalisation hypotheses (http://ijpor.oxfordjournals.org/content/14/3/303.short?rss=1&ssource=mfc).

When it comes to national pride, Americans were No. 1, according to a survey of 34 countries’ patriotism in 2006 (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13577802/ns/us_news-life/t/america-tops-national-pride-survey-finds/#.TtBPx1bhcqM sourced from Associated Press).

2009 research confirmed that Australians are among world’s leaders when it comes to national pride. http://www.australiaday.org.au/media/?x=32

July 2011, Tony Blair wants British national pride to shine at the coming Olympic Games:


Nationalist politics and movements are very active in Britain, especially when it comes to facets of EU membership. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/may/20/scottish-independence-all-vote-stick-together ; http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/2011/10/21/regional-nationalisms/)

The late Ernest Gellner (Book: Nations & Nationalism, 1983) argues that nationalism is an inseparable consequence of modernism.

Author Tom Nairn (Book: Faces of Nationalism, 1997) argues that nation-building movements from 1750 to 1990 have saved the world from imperial barbarism.

Such arguments and thinking, based on evidence, may help us to understand the new forms that nationalism takes in an age of globalisation and huge concentrations of economic power in the hands of a few.

From their structure and functioning one could conclude that in modern unionist moves (e.g. EU) national independence is irrelevant. This would seem plain wrong as any union, any merger, is likely to be stronger if it recognises the profile and identity any constituent brings into the union/merger.

The nationalism, the kind that inhabits the corridors of Westminster, for example, obsessing about sovereignty, obsessing about British interests, obsessing about the GBP, most likely sees the EU as a threat to the British way of life.  (http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/global-issues/european-union/021-europe-approach/)

Right-wing governments (usually symbolised by Blue colour) have often been associated with any of several strains of monarchism, conservatism, the religious right, nationalism, fascism, or simply the opposite of left-wing politics (often associated with socialism, green politics, anarchism, communism, social democracy, American liberalism or social liberalism/ usually symbolised by Red colour).

The right advanced capitalism, whereas the left advocated socialism (often democratic socialism) or communism.

The Guardian (UK) research department published last week an interactive map of European political power. Citing: “With 20 EU member states now under varying degrees of rightwing government, Europe has rarely been more blue”.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2011/jul/28/europe-politics-interactive-map-left-right

The modern Croatian national pride does not differ from any other national pride encountered in the developed world. Given that most countries of the developed world still cherish the presence of nationalism, and often use it to advance their personal or national standing, pinning negative connotations to nationalism that may be present in Croatia is plain mean-spirited, malicious  and wrong.

It just may be that national pride will save Croatia and restore its rightful position in a just world.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner, The Washington Times, 24 November 2011, wrapped-up his article on “Myth of Croatian Fascism” with: “Tito’s ghost lives – until it is exorcised, Croatia will remain haunted and doomed”. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/nov/24/myth-of-croatian-fascism/

I do not, however, agree with Mr Kuhner when he says that “(HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union) are remnants of the communist system”. The fact is the whole of Croatia, all its political parties, are remnants of the communist system.

The only important question is: which of these political parties in Croatia is strong enough to exorcise the ghost of Tito! Certainly, the likelihood is that the Kukuriku/”cock-a-doodle-doo” coalition won’t.

If it takes nationalism to clear the way from corruption, from the weight of Communist crimes, from anti-Croatian propaganda, from twisting the Croatian truth into unpalatable meals of defamation, vilification, exorcise the ghost of Tito and communism … so be it! It would be the right kind of nationalism – progress for all. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb), B.A.,M.A.Ps.(Syd)

Related posts by Ina Vukic: http://inavukic.com/2011/11/18/and-justice-for-all/ http://inavukic.com/2011/11/02/mass-murders-of-anti-communists-in-wwii-and-after-finally-get-their-deserved-attention-of-law/


  1. Your intention to help raise money for construction of new playgrounds in Vukovar is warming and touching. Please give me a few days to enquire and will respond to your question with information.

  2. Esther Gitman says:

    In your highly analytical article regarding the future of Croatia you asked: Who will exorcise the ghost of Tito from Croatia: The Centre-Right or the Centre-Left? It dawned on me that the only person who can solve the puzzle of this question is Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac, 1941-1946.
    My name is Esther Gitman and I would like to take this opportunity to present a chapter in Holocaust history, which is little known yet of great importance; it is the rescue of Jews by Alojzije Stepinac, the archbishop of Zagreb in the Independent State of Croatia, Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, (NDH). I will proceed by briefly describing a few experiences which motivated me to undertake an ambitious task as going back to school with one objective in mind; to complete a Ph.D. in an area that practically no researchers had examined before.
    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 urgency were placed on identifying and naming the perpetrators and their brutalities and the carnage of the WWII era. Rescue in this scheme of things had the lowest priority and 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, (NDH) 9,500 survived, while 75 percent perished.
    For years I felt blessed for surviving and in time I took my survival for granted, failing to think of those who risked their lives on our behalf. However, in my mid-50s I was consumed by the desire to understand and find out, how and by whom I and other survivors 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 who were determined to defy dictators such as Hitler, Mussolini and Pavelić, the leader of the Croatian fascists, known as Ustaše.

    In 2002 on a Fulbright fellowship to Zagreb, I began my year-long research in the Croatian National Archives, which led me to other parts of former Yugoslavia, to Israel and eventually to a six-months post-doctoral fellowship at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) where my central thesis was fully crystallized:

    Ignoring government’s warnings, thousands of NDH citizens risked their lives and those of their family members by assisting in the rescue of Jews.

    Regina Perera, a childhood friend who like me was rescued first in NDH and later on by the Italians summed up her feeling of gratitude:

    We do not know, and probably will never know, all the people who protected, helped and assisted us during World War II. They were kind and generous people, who risked their lives by taking us in, sharing their meager food with us, and saving (literally) our lives. We know that we owe them an eternal debt, which we will never be able to repay.
    I reviewed tens of thousands of documents and copied 5,000 that were relevant to rescue. Some of these pertained to the individuals I had the privilege to interview. These were of special importance because their oral histories were corroborated by the documents. I interviewed 77 rescuers and survivors and heard over 200 recorded testimonies in archives of several countries.
    Survivors related to me their rescue stories but they had a hard time explaining whom did they consider to be a rescuer and why. Only after reviewing thousands of documents and reviewing over and over the testimonies of rescuers and survivors, exploring the historiographic literature and the material assembled by the Yad Vashem archives in Jerusalem, my definition of “rescue” emerged:
    A deliberate act performed by non-Jews in an effort to save Jews that involves risk.(Risk implies a possible loss of money, status, or life.)

    These same sources led me to identify six categories of rescue; 1. Rescue by ordinary citizens; 2. Rescue by NDH Officials: a. of professionals and skilled Jews; b. of 167 Medical Doctors and their immediate families by the NDH ministry of health; c. 2000+ Exit Visas issued to Jews of Zagreb by Vilko Kuhnel, the director of the office for law and order, Jewish division; d. 100 Jews and their families were recognized as Honorary Aryans, for their extraordinary contributions to Croatia; 3. Rescue by individual clergy and nuns most notably by Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac; 4. Rescue by Italian 2nd Army and individual Italian soldiers and citizens;
    5. Rescue by Croatian Partisans (up to 1944 there were two groups of partisans); 6. Rescue by national and international humanitarian organizations.
    While I identified six categories of rescue, in many of the survivors testimonies the name most frequently associated with assistance and rescue to Jews was that of Archbishop Stepinac. In the following I shall present brief summaries from his sermons, letters, and actions that will reveal his fearless battle against the foreign occupiers and their local collaborators.
    The documents collated by Dr. Ivo Politeo, Stepinac’s defense lawyer in the postwar prosecution were an invaluable source for understanding Archbishop’s guiding principle regarding the conduct of leaders and the society in peace and in war time. Stepinac’s unwavering moral and ethical stand earned him esteem among his people. On June 1941, two months into the war when the persecutions of Jews and other innocent people was relentless, Stepinac took a dangerous but dramatic step. He went personally to see Ante Pavelić, the poglavnik. When he entered his office Stepinac declared: “It is God’s command ‘Thou Shalt not Kill!’ and without another word he turned around and left his office. We also learn that Stepinac’s sermons were attended not only by faithful Catholics but also by those who otherwise did not go to Church. Those sermons were spread, recounted, copied and propagated in thousands and thousands of copies among the people and even penetrated to the liberated territory. But before we turn to Archbishop Stepinac it is of essence to understand the historic context.
    From 1933 onward Germany’s objective was to impose a new political, economic, and social order on Europe. The success of the Nazis’ executive dynamism resulted from the interaction of three variables: The abandonment of social restraint, the pursuit of a nationalistic social utopia, and the formation of its own theocracy. This German ideology promised not terror and blood but reward—a utopia in which an idyllic community of people would govern the world, devoid of religion, and political parties in other words a dictatorship. The Nazis aimed to establish a new world hierarchy based on race, where the Germans were the master race, the Slavs were subhuman and the Jews were mere organic matter. In this hierarchical system the Germans had the duty, not only the right, to rule, to enslave, and to murder those they viewed as superfluous. Their ideology was crystallized in the slogan: Today Germany belongs to us, tomorrow the entire world.
    The population of the Third Reich was indoctrinated with the idea that this was the price society should pay for social progress. Germany’s ultimate aim was to harness large tracts of Europe for the interests of the German economy and for world hegemony. The solution offered by SS leader Heinrich Himmler summed it up: The only way to solve the social problem is for one lot to kill the others and take their land.
    This motto could not have contrasted more clearly with the teachings of Judeo-Christian Ethics: that all men were created equal, that they are endowed with equal rights and reason. Whereas the Nazi doctrine claimed that life in this world is worthless and meaningless except in so far as it consists of the self-realization of an elite of the strong and the powerful—who employ the common people as mere instruments of their own will. The Nazi ideology conflicted with both the teachings of Christ and the Messianic vision–of ultimate universal reconciliation when all shall become one true community, when nation shall not lift up sword against nation and when justice shall rule the world. Archbishop Stepinac abhorred the pagan Nazi ideology and although he had an option to leave Croatia Stepinac’s wish was to remain among his people at these difficult times.
    In March 26, 1941 Germany’s planes bombed Belgrade and in April Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy dismembered Yugoslavia, this was the beginning of both the war of liberation and a complex civil war. On April 10, 1941 Nazi agents arranged the proclamation of the independent Croatian state to coincide with the entrance of German military forces into Zagreb thus demonstrating to the Croatian citizens that Germany was in control. Archbishop Stepinac upon hearing that the Germans were approaching the Ban Jelačić Trg the main square exclaimed: “Ne viruj Nimcu, ko ni suncu zimsku. “ (Distrust the Germans as you would distrust the winter sun). Stepinac knew of Hitler’s devious conduct; in his book Mein Kampf Hitler attacked both Christian Churches in Germany for their failure to recognize the racial laws, yet on July 20, 1933 for political gain, Hitler had concluded a concordant with the Vatican in which he guaranteed freedom to the Catholic religion. On July 25, five days after the concordant was signed, the Third Reich began violating the tenets of the agreement by murdering thousands of individuals they considered useless and in time also hundreds of dissident priests. On March 14, 1937, Pope Pius XI issued an encyclical “Mit Brennender Sorge” (With Burning Sorrow) charging the Nazi regime with “evasion” and violation of the concordant and accusing them of “sowing seeds of fear and suspicion, discord and hatred, slander and open fundamental hostility to Christ and His Church.” The Pope foresaw on “the horizons of Germany” the threatening clouds of destructive religious wars…which had no other aim than…destruction.
    Archbishop Stepinac, like many other Croats longed for a free Croatia and on October 3, 1938, he described to students at the University of Zagreb the kind of country he yearned for:
    Love towards one’s own nation cannot turn a man into a wild animal, which destroys everything and calls for reprisal, but it must ennoble him, so that his own nation secures respect and love of other nations.
    The question before him, however, was whether a Croatian state under Nazi auspices would be such a nation. On April 17, 1941, Ante Pavelić entered Zagreb accompanied by 200-300 of his loyal Ustaše troops as NDH’s new leader. Stepinac paid a visit to Pavelić, although he was not among those who welcomed him at the railway station in Zagreb. On April 29, 1941 in the Katolički list Stepinac expressed his elation over the freedom Croatia had gained once the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was dismembered, stating:
    There is no one among you who has not been a recent witness to the momentous events in the life of the Croatian nation …No reasonable person can condemn and no honest one can cast blame, because the love towards one’s own people is inscribed in the human heart by God and His commandment.
    But the joy was short lived once Nazi Germany assigned the first tasks to the NDH. It was to promulgate the Final Solution of the Jews and resolve the Jewish Question in NDH. The plan would involve three stages: First, dismiss the Jews from all government and civil service posts, and shut down their private enterprises thus deny them the right to earn a living.
    Second, confiscate all Jewish assets on grounds that they belonged to the Croatian people. Third, physically exterminate all Jews, as defined by Nazi Racial Laws, in NDH territories.
    On April 17, 1941, the “Protection of the Croatian People and the State Act were implemented. Two weeks later, the NDH regime directly charged the Jews with collective responsibility for disseminating lies about the conduct of the government, thus disturbing the public peace and order. Because of their “subversive” conduct harsh measures against the Jews were undertaken, effectively giving ultimate legal justification for their murder and the punishment of those who assisted them.
    Count O’Brian of Thomond who visited Stepinac weekly for two and half years while in Zagreb wrote:
    On New Year’s Eve 1941,in a sermon in his cathedral Mgr. Stepinac condemned in the strongest term the principles of Nazism and Utašism and their regimes of terror, so that the Ustaše openly threatened to kill him. Their unprincipled conduct grieved Archbishop Stepinac. By the following month he already distanced himself from the Ustaše.
    He further stated that Stepinac’s theology and his philosophy of life was best expressed in his sermons. The authorities’ allowed him to speak freely but only within the confines of his Church little did they know that the crowds packed the Zagreb Cathedral…quote: The people yearned to hear the only voice, which even the dreaded Gestapo could not silence. His voice was raised time and again against the pagan doctrines of totalitarianism. Count O’Brian also stated: I know that he [Stepinac] absolutely opposed the Croat extremists, who were ready to identify Croatia’s fate with that of National Socialist Germany and Fascist Italy. His was a particularly high conception of authority and the rule of law.
    On October 26, 1941, the Feast of Christ the King, Stepinac stated from his pulpit in Zagreb Cathedral: …if you desire to be true subjects of Christ the King you must cultivate love towards your neighbor, towards all men without difference…
    He also appealed to his parishioners to avoid fighting in the name of the Catholic Church, stating: The danger in such ideology is that many, in the name of Catholicism, may become victims of passion and of hatred, thus forgetting the most beautiful characteristic trait of Christianity, the law of love.
    In May 1942 Stepinac stated: …It would be an absurdity to speak of a new order in the world; if human personality is not valued in that order because each soul has its inalienable rights which no human power can or ought to limit…
    On June 29, 1942, at the feast of St. Peter and Paul he stated:
    We cannot be Catholics in the church, but attack in the streets like pagans … On October 26, 1942, the feast of Christ the King: All the nations and races are derived from God…Each nation and race that is formed today on earth has the right to a life worthy of man. All without difference, whether they be Negroes or well mannered Europeans, whether they be hated Jews or proud Aryans, they have equal rights to say: ‘Our father which art in Heaven’.
    On March 14, 1943, Stepinac repeated his convictions regarding the Racial Laws: …every man, of whatever race or nation, whether he has studied in the universities of the civilized centers of Europe or hunts his food in the virgin forests of Africa, carries equally on himself the stamp of God the Creator and possesses inalienable rights which must not be taken from him nor arbitrarily limited by any human power. Each of them has the right to marriage, the right of physical life, the right to the life of the soul, the right to a religious education, the right to use material goods in so far as not contrary to just laws which protect the interests of the whole community; and many other rights. Every violation of these rights of the human person can only have evil consequences.
    On October 31, 1943 condemning all the injustices, he stated:
    The Church stands for that order which is as old as God’s commandment. We stand not for that order which has been written on perishable paper, but in human conscience by the finger of the living God.
    Stepinac sends protest letters to NDH leaders in which he expressed his concern that the inhumane policies of the NDH regime against the Jews, took a totalitarian character which threatened to inflict great damage on the Croatian people and the Catholic Church, he stated:… due to the malicious Ustaši behavior, the Croatian people would have to bear full responsibility for their conduct…
    Stepinac was not silent as some would like us believe, his letters to the regime were constant and frequent. In March 1941 he sent a letter to Ante Pavelić stating: …As a representative of Catholic Church, and following my holiest duty, I raise my voice against interference of the state into questions of lawful marriages that are insolvable, regardless of the racial affiliation. If it uses physical power, then the state is perpetrating ordinary violence.
    On May 22, 1941, Stepinac wrote to Andrija Artuković, the Interior Minister, protesting the implementation of the antisemitic legislation: …But to take away all possibility of existence from members of other nations or races and to mark them with the stamp of shame is already a question of humanity and of morals…Why treat in this way those who are members of another race through no fault of their own? …Do we have the right to commit this outrage…?…I ask you, Mr. Minister, to give appropriate orders so that Jewish laws and others similar to them are executed in such a way that the human dignity and personality of every man is respected.
    In September 1941, Stepinac protested to Pavelić, stating: Poglavnik: As an Archbishop and representative of the Catholic Church, I am free to call your attention to some events that touch me painfully…I hear from many various sides about the inhuman and cruel treatment of non-Aryans…
    On March 7, 1942, Stepinac wrote a second letter to Artuković: …I do not think that it can bring us any glory if it is said of us that we have solved the Jewish problem in the most radical way, that is to say, the cruelest…
    Stepinac went on to say that capital punishment inflicted on innocent people was contrary to Catholic teachings; penalties should be inflicted only on those who have committed a crime.
    The system of shooting hundreds of hostages for a crime, when the person guilty of the crime cannot be found, is a pagan system which only results in evil.
    On March 8, 1943, Stepinac wrote again to Ante Pavelić, …But if there is here [the anti-Jewish policy] the interference of a foreign power in our internal and political life, I am not afraid if my voice and my protest carry even to the leaders of that power; because the Catholic Church knows no fear of any earthly power, whatever it may be, when it is a question of defending the most basic rights of men.
    The Ustaše conduct towards the non-Aryans became progressively worse and in 1943 Stepinac’s voice could be no longer confined to his Church. On July 9, 1943, Radio Vatican, in its program Free Yugoslavia, portrayed the archbishop as:
    … a resolute soldier advocating moral justice and freedom. No worldly power, no political organization has the right to persecute a man on account of the race to which he belongs. The Catholic Church fears no earthly power when there is a question of defending human rights…
    The Nazis were aware of Stepinac’s political views towards the Jewish refugees well before their occupation of Yugoslavia. His charitable activities began in 1936 when thousands, mostly Jewish refugees from Austria and Germany, were fleeing to Nazi free territories. Their plight and misery prompted Stepinac to send several requests for refugee support to his parishioners. In 1938 Stepinac sent a letter to 298 eminent Croats requesting financial contributions as a demonstration of their Christian obligation. In October 1942, Glaise von Horstenau, the German Plenipotentiary in Zagreb recorded in his diary: Archbishop Stepinac [of Croatia] and his entourage are friendly to the Jews, (judenfreundlich), and therefore enemies of National Socialism. The same Archbishop had been the protector of Jewish émigrés under the Yugoslav regime, although he paid no attention to the misery of his own people.
    Historians and his people recognized that such slanderous remarks were uttered in order to drive a wedge between the Archbishop and his people. Stepinac, true to his word was never deterred by earthly power and in several of his circulars between 1935 and 1943 he enjoined his clergymen to avoid political involvement. Although he was successful with the clergy in his own Archdiocese and with older priests, he continued his efforts to influence the others by frequently quoting the Apostle Paul: No one who fights for God involves himself in the affairs of this life so that he may gratify Christ.
    On August 5, 1946 the U.S. Embassy in Cairo sent notes to the U.S. State Dept., in Washington, D.C. describing the 1942 Stepinac’s conversations with Stanislaw Rapotec, a Slovene, who was sent to Croatia by the Yugoslav Royal family in exile. His mission was to seek the Archbishop’s help in arranging a regular distribution of funds to Serbian war refugees. With sorrow, Rapotec informed Stepinac that the news reaching the outside world was that he and the clergy in Croatia had failed in their moral leadership…in the midst of the German-inspired murderous acts.
    Although Stepinac was grieved, he replied that he did not seek transitory earthly acclaim but that he could speak of the things as they happened, and leave judgment to Christian justice and conscience. Reflecting on changes forged by the war, Stepinac disclosed with pain the damage that was inflicted upon his people:
    The Germans and Ustaše destroyed our people’s souls and bodies. Their gory work was made easier by those in our midst who are false of heart. Among the false, to our shame, were Catholic priests in isolated localities, who as individuals used their holy robes for treacherous political purposes. They were no longer men of God acting under the authority of the Church. They represented nothing, no one, but their own warped desires, whetted by what they saw with their diseased eyes of German power and glory.
    The loss in human lives during the rule of NDH was great and the conduct of the Ustaše government was distasteful and morally repugnant to many Croatian citizens who continued to believe that their new state was decent but misinformed, and thus it was their duty as citizens to let them know of the injustices committed against Jews. Stepinac was aware of their discontent. The following 3 stories are examples of the 420 letters, written and signed personally, by thousands of ordinary Croats who petitioned on behalf of Jews in their communities.
    Branka Spicer, an owner of a local store in the village of Velika Kopanica lost her family’s livelihood when the Ustaše confiscated her store. The villagers wrote to the Ministry of the Treasury requesting the return of the store to the Spicer family because they always acted justly and honorably towards the Croats. 103 peasants signed the petition.
    Alexander Šandor Loyi was sent in 1941 to Jasenovac concentration camp. 76 residents of Donja Lomnica petitioned the Interior Ministry for his freedom because he had lived in their community for 30 years and was a good friend, a loyal Croat and voted for the Croatian Peasant Party.
    In 1943 Srečko Breyer, a Jewish merchant, who resided in the District of Jastrebarsko, wrote a letter to the Minister of the Interior requesting Aryan rights for his mother, sister and for himself. He considered his family to be equal to any other citizen in the region. Brayer’s request was seconded in writing by 151 Croats.
    Throughout the war years Stepinac maintained close contact with the Jewish Community in Zagreb. The letters of the Chief Rabbi of Croatia, Dr. Miroslav Shalom Freiberger, attest to their confidence and mutual respect. In October 1941, shortly after the destruction of the main Jewish synagogue in Zagreb, Stepinac grieved and he exclaimed: A House of God, of whatever religion, is a holy place. Whoever touches such a place will pay with his life. An attack on a House of God of any religion constitutes an attack on all religious communities.
    On December 15, 1942, Rabbi Freiberger, through the Apostolic Visitor to Croatia, Mgr. Giuseppe Marcone, asked the Holy See for help in transferring 50 to 60 orphans from Zagreb to Italy. On January 9, 1942, Stepinac wrote to Cardinal Maglione asking for his intervention on behalf of sending 200 boys to the Jewish Community in Florence. On April 15, 1942, Stepinac wrote to Artuković requesting his assistance in the relocation of 50 Jewish children to Turkey. On April 8, 1943, the Rabbi asked Stepinac to intervene on their behalf and obtain work permits for employees of the Jewish community.
    In July 1943, Dr. Amiel Shomrony, then Emil Schwarz, personal secretary of the Chief Rabbi, recalled how, he was sent on an errands to the Archdiocese on that day he was asked to inform the Rabbi of the up and coming roundups of Jews and to extend Stepinac’s invitation to the Rabbi and his family to stay in the Archdiocese. The Rabbi upon learning of the plan which included all the Jews, chose to be deported with his Congregation. However, he asked Stepinac to save his library for safekeeping. The library was saved and after the war was returned to the Jewish Community.
    On December 6, 1943 German agents entered the home for the Jewish elderly, Lavoslav Schwarz, in Zagreb and ordered the residents to vacate the building within ten days or be deported. At the request of the Jewish Community, Alojzije Stepinac organized the transfer of 58 elderly to the archbishopric’s building in Brežovica. He was one of their frequent visitors; They remain there till 1947.
    Stepinac recognized that if he survived the war, he would be made responsible for the “induced conversions” of Serbs living in Croatia. Initially he opposed such conversions on the ground that Serbs—as members of the Serbian Orthodox Church were already baptized. However, when news reached him that the extermination rate among Serbs who were not baptized by the Croatian clergy was considerably higher than among the converted, he urged his clergy to convert those Serbs—as well as Jews—who came to them believing that conversion would spare their lives, stating: When you are visited by people of the Jewish or Eastern Orthodox faith, whose lives are in danger and who express the wish to convert to Catholicism, accept them in order to save human lives. Do not require any special religious knowledge from them, Because the Eastern Orthodox are Christians like ourselves, and the Jewish faith is the faith from which Christianity draws its roots. The role and duty of Christian’s is in the first place to save people. When this time of madness and of savagery passes, those who would convert out of conviction will remain in our church, while the others, after the danger passes, will return to their church.
    Unfortunately, 75 percent of NDH Jews perished but most of those who survived in Zagreb owe their survival to Archbishop Stepinac.
    The Nazi agents in NDH, among them Hans Helm, the German police attaché in Zagreb, sent daily reports to Berlin. They included the news he received from agents in the field and reports based on his own observations in the cities. Berlin received many complaints against Archbishop Stepinac who was considered a persona non-grata, for example, on December 29, 1941, Helm wrote to the SS officer in charge of the Security Police and Security Service: We were informed all along about political meddling of the Cleric [Stepinac] in the internal affair of the country. He has connections in every department, most specifically education and he controls the media…The most significant news are that the Church in Croatia has contacts with London and the Yugoslavian Government in Exile. This approach undertaken by the Church could be viewed as contrary to the interests of the Third Reich and of the NDH. Our objective is to eliminate the influence of the Cleric [Stepinac]…
    On August 28, 1942, Helm again informed Berlin of Stepinac’s hostile conduct towards National Socialism and the Ustaši, although he acknowledged that some lower level clergy cooperated with the Ustaši. Helm emphasized that Stepinac, frequently spoke in his sermons about “Mir” (peace), a subject which could demoralize the fighting men.
    Helm also addressed the subject of “Mixed Marriages” in Croatia. He argued that since they were acceptable to the upper echelon of the Ustaše hierarchy, several of whom were married to Jewish women, they had little motivation to control the Archbishop and the masses on this subject. On, March 25, 1943, Helm again wrote to Berlin, this time addressing the SS, chief in charge of police on the problem of: Mixed Marriages in Croatia: The Croatian government instructed that all the Jews be registered, including those involved in mixed marriages. As a result of this order some Jews turned to Archbishop Stepinac for protection. The Archbishop promised full protection, sending a memorandum to this effect to the Pope. …As a sign of protest, Stepinac declared he would close for a period all the churches in Croatia and let the bells ring continuously. Although not as yet confirmed, the Pope intends to take up this matter with the Fuehrer.
    Despite the Helm’s and Ziegfried Kasche’s protests, it is clear that Stepinac prevailed; because most partners in mixed-marriages and their children survived.
    Vatican’s Instructions to clergy were: weigh carefully your public declarations. The silence requested of the Catholic Church in Croatia and its prelates was not arbitrary: a real threat from the Nazi regime was looming on the horizon. Indeed the Vatican instructed Stepinac to be mindful of his words in order to save human lives. This was especially true after the Catholic hierarchy in the Netherlands spoke out forcefully in 1942 in defense of Jews—following which, the Nazis initiated the rounding up of all Jews including long time converts, among them priests and nuns. Holland’s bishops demonstrated great courage, but 79 percent of the country’s Jews, 100,000 individuals, were murdered. The Nazis were determined at all cost to end everywhere all such attempts. On January 24, 1943, Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German Foreign Minister, sent a letter to Ernst von Weizsäcker, the German ambassador to the Vatican, directing him to inform the Vatican that any subversive actions against the Third Reich would have adverse consequences: …Should the Vatican either politically or propagandistically oppose Germany, it should be made unmistakably clear that the worsening of relations between Germany and the Vatican would not by any means have an adverse effect on Germany alone. On the contrary, the German government would have sufficient effective propaganda material as well as retaliatory measures at its disposal to counter each attempted move by the Vatican.
    Ivo Politeo, Stepinac’s attorney in the postwar case against him, stated that even the Public Prosecutor in his indictment acknowledged that in 1942 Cardinal Maglione, the State Secretary of the Vatican, had recommended to Stepinac that in the interest of the Church he should establish a more tactful, sincere and cordial attitude towards the Ustaši authorities. On June 2, 1943, Pius XII, sent a letter to the Sacred College of Cardinals instructing them to be cautious with their public pronouncements: Every word that We address to the responsible authorities and every one of Our public declarations has to be seriously weighed and considered in the interest of the persecuted themselves in order not to make their situation unwittingly even more difficult and unbearable.
    It is not clear whether this request resulted from the warning transmitted by Germany’s ambassador to the Vatican. Nonetheless, on July 7, 1943, despite German threats, Radio BBC in London transmitted a Croatian-language news item:
    Yesterday the Vatican published two excerpts from speeches delivered by Dr. Stepinac to his parishioners. The Archbishop of Zagreb has strongly and sharply condemned the deportations of Jews and other ethnic groups that were based on Nazi theories and Nuremberg Laws. The Vatican radio announces that Archbishop Stepinac, in his weekly address, stated that every people and every race on earth has a right to exist and to human treatment. If God gave this right to mankind there is no government on earth that can take it away.
    In contrast to Stepinac’s many detractors, mostly Yugoslav there are today historians who recognize Stepinac’s selfless conduct and his courage to condemned the racial laws and his advocacy against the arbitrary rule of law Michael Phayer, American historian, stated: Bishop Alojzije Stepinac began to distance himself from the Ustaši in May 1941, just a month after Pavelić came to power. He objected publicly to the fascist’s racial laws, complained about converted Jews having to wear the Star of David, and then extended his concern to all Jews…In comparison with other eastern European church leaders; especially those in neighboring Hungary, Bishop Stepinac showed courage and insight in his actions.
    On another occasion Phayer wrote: No leader of a national church ever spoke about genocide as pointedly as Stepinac. His words were courageous and principled, because he, a Croat, denounced Croatian nationals…Unfortunately; the Holy See let no one know that Archbishop Stepinac had dared to speak out against racism and genocide…
    Norman J.W. Goda, American historian in ” U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis” wrote: …Stepinac, spoke of Ustaši crimes …within the context of Holy Scripture. It is clear though that he rejected any ideology, from the left or right, which on the basis of race, religion, or class degraded the dignity and rights of the individual.
    After the war, diplomats began revealing their impressions of the activities and conduct of Archbishop Stepinac during the occupation and on May 17, 1945, Captain Evelyn Waugh, from the British Mission in Yugoslavia wrote in Church and State in Liberated Croatia recalling the early days of Nazi occupation in Zagreb and specifically the reaction of Archbishop Stepinac: Thus in Zagreb in June 1941, Archbishop Stepinac led a deputation to Pavelić to protest against the persecution of Jews many of the clergy wore yellow star on the treet to ridicule Pavelić’s attempt to mark Jews in the Nazi manner. The Bishops Conference of 1942 addressed a remonstrance to Pavelić under seven heads, itemizing acts of lawlessness by the Ustaše…
    On September 26, 1946, during the trial of Stepinac, the American Consulate in Zagreb sent a Secret Assessment to the U. S. State Department informing them of the findings relative the culpability of the Archbishop: Dr. Stepinac’s attitude against the Ustaši and Pavelić in wartime has been made sufficiently clear in the official gazette of the Zagreb Archbishopric of the year 1945 and 1946. By these documents a clear proof is given that Archbishop Stepinac did not closely cooperate with the Ustaši and Pavelić…In addition, we draw attention to the fact that Pavelić three times asked that Dr. Stepinac be removed from his position only because he did not collaborate with the Ustaši regime.
    Stepinac’s love for the Croatian people and for mankind was amply exhibited towards the end of the war, when he had found a way to contact the Allied Forces in Italy and pleaded with them not to bomb Zagreb and other Croatian cities. His courage and ingenuity saved many thousands lives.
    In summary I would like to point out the relevancy of the declassification of U.S. Intelligence Records under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act of 1998, in obtaining the material which enabled me to tell this story. It is also important to state that many one-sided perspectives told by Tito’s communists or former Ustaše are slowly being replaced by more nuanced versions of the role Alojzije Stepinac played in the drama of WWII. My own research demonstrates that Stepinac forcefully denounced the violation of human rights through legislation directed against Jews, Serbs and Roma and that he, at every opportunity, demanded a return to the Law of God. In 1941, when two of his priests and six nuns whose origin was Jewish were absolved from wearing the yellow Star of David, intended by the Nazis as a badge of shame Stepinac solemnly declared: I have requested that these priests and nuns continue wearing this sign of belonging to the people from which Our Savior was born as long as others will have to do so.
    Alojzije Stepinac had a choice to lead a different type of life in Rome or elsewhere bit his belief in the inalienable rights of each person to live the life given to him by the Creator, motivated him to stay in Zagreb and care for thousands of victims who depended on him–first and foremost his parishioners, but also the many others who were rejected by the Nazi and the Ustaše regimes: like the 58 Jewish elderly, the orphaned children, the women involved in mixed marriages, the Greek deportees for whom Stepinac came to the train station and gave them water and first aid kits, and for the many individuals who found temporary shelter in his Palace. For all his undertakings Stepinac’s life was endangered on several occasions. He was spared only thanks to the love, admiration and the loyalty of his people.
    I elected to tread into the uncharted territory of the rescue of Jews in NDH within the broader context of Holocaust history, not only because I am a survivor but because my findings convinced me that the rescue and survival of thousands of Jews in a very hostile environment and under difficult circumstances demonstrates to us and to future generations that dictators and their misguided philosophies, can be defeated. My aim here was not to minimize the Ustaše responsibility for the annihilation of NDH’s Jews. Rather I wish to challenge the widespread perception that the entire Croatian population was culpable as was advocated by Tito’s regime and his followers.
    I must admit that during all these years of research two questions remain on my mind “How would I have behaved under an oppressive regime? Would I have had the courage exhibited by my mother who fled with one thought,to save me. And would I have the courage of Archbishop Stepinac and thousands of other rescuers while placing my own life and that of my family in harm’s way? I still do not have an answer, but I do know that their lives and actions made a difference and should be a guiding light to us and to future generations. Archbishop Stepinac saved his church and many of us.
    Esther Gitman, Ph.D.

  3. anne-marie o'connor says:

    I wonder if someone on this forum knows if there is a an archive or list of all of the “honorary Aryans” in fascist Croatia, and the names of those of them who signed an oath of loyalty to the fascist state, required in many cases to save their lives.

    • The state archives in Zagreb would probably have individual files with similar loyalty oaths however I’m not aware that a list exists but who knows? Perhaps you could check out Esther Gitman’s book When Courage Prevailed and that may lead you to some ideas as to how access archives etc. Funny you should ask that, there’a an articles in todays Vecernji List from Zagreb writing about Vesna Pusic’s (who’s probably going to be the next foreign affairs minister in Croatia) father and in that text it mentions that in the archives his oath to loyalty to the fascists was found. http://www.vecernji.hr/vijesti/otac-vesne-pusic-bio-je-natporucnik-sudac-vojsci-ndh-clanak-354802
      Hope this helps

      • anne-marie o'connor says:

        The loyalty oath of the honorary Aryans was specific to Jews, generally wealthy families, who were asked to swear they would use their resources to help the fascist state. I’ve messaged the state archives but gotten no reply. Other archives have responded that they don’t know where the list is. It seems there would be a collection of the names somewhere–I don’t believe there were many, hundreds, or in the low thousands. Apparently many in the top layer of the Ustasha were married to women of Jewish descent, and while the Germans didn’t like it, they created a category so that well-to-do Jews could be legitimized and spared. I’m sure it was coercive in many cases–families signed because they stayed too long and were not sure they would survive otherwise. Thank you for this, and please let me know if something else occurs to you.

      • Thanks Anne-Marie, if I find out anything about a list you’re seeking I’ll let you know. When I wrote a book “Thorn Lace – A Migrant’s Lot” years ago I came accross the fact that Nazi’s spared the Jews in mixed marriages thoughout Gremany, Austria etc, but at times still found a way of getting rid of some. There were mixed marriages in Croatia too,I believe the wife of Ante Pavelic was Jewish too. According to media/published records I came accross in the past there were Jews in high positions in the pro-Nazi Croatian state of World War II but how and under what conditions they were there is something unknown to me. I’ll certainly keep you informed if I hear anything about a list. My feeling though is that one would need to rummage through state archives.

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