Rehabilitating The Scarred Image Of Croatia’s Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac: An Interview With Dr Esther Gitman By “The Catholic Weekly”

Catholic Weekly 16 March 2014_Page_1

Recovering history

Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac saved hundreds of Jews in war-torn Croatia but, amazingly, is still considered a war criminal by many. A journalist talks to a Jewish academic who says the world has got it all wrong.

14 March, 2014
A Jewish academic is working to clear the name of Blessed Aloysius Stepinac, a Croatian Catholic Church leader convicted of war crimes and collaboration with the enemy during World War II.

For 70 years, Cardinal Stepinac has often been portrayed as a Nazi collaborator who failed to protect Jewish families who sought his protection during the Holocaust.

But Dr Esther Gitman’s research, and subsequent book and documentary, paint a picture of a man who risked his life to protect Jews from certain death. That she is alive to do this work is thanks to the Croatians who helped her mother to flee Sarajevo for Israel. READ ON – THE CATHOLIC WEEKLY ONLINE



“In 1946, prior to Stepinac’s trial, the Communist Party had published a book that contained forged and carefully selected and edited documents designed to make Stepinac and the Catholic Church look bad.

In the 1960s, Italian writer Carlo Falconi sought permission from the Yugoslav authorities to research Croatian archives for a book that he was writing on Pope Pius XII. Party officials eventually handed over some original documents and provided Falconi with a copy of the 1946 book. Neither Falconi nor the others who came after him knew that the evidence had been carefully manufactured to assure that Stepinac appeared to have been a collaborator of the Ustashi (and that Pius appeared sympathetic to the Nazis). He was not given access to any materials or archives that could contradict the communist-manufactured propaganda. Thus, on the basis of forged and carefully selected documents assembled by the Yugoslav secret police, Falconi wrote his book, The Silence of Pius XII” (Ronald J. Rychlak, University of Mississippi School of Law, 2009, Cardinal Stepinac, Pope Pius XII, and the Roman Catholic Church during the second World War)

And so the communist lies about Aloysius Stepinac took a life of their own, portraying him falsely as a symbol of the Holocaust in Croatia, instead of a symbol of the rescue of Jews in Croatia during the times of the Holocaust!

As the communist Yugoslavia authorities had forbidden access to the original documents pertaining to WWII rescue of Jews in Croatia and locked away the multitudes of boxes containing these, Dr Esther Gitman was the first scholar who had been able to research these documents thoroughly after Croatia had seceded from the communist Yugoslavia in the 1990’s and opened up its WWII archives for research.  


  1. Reblogged this on Eyes of the Mind.

  2. Bravo Dr. Gitman! Thanks for the post, Ina!

  3. Reblogged this on idealisticrebel.

  4. I wonder how many other falsehoods exist in our world waiting to be uncovered by determined beings. There must be rejoicing when injustice is corrected. Thank you for sharing this.x

    • Indeed it’s wonderful scottishmomus , even if it will taken a while for some to come to terms that they’ve been fed lies all these years when it comes to Stepinac.

  5. It’s easy to see who we can consider our friends and where our allegiance in terms of foreign affairs should be gravitating towards. Croatia needs to strengthen ties with those with whom we should be cooperating. This certainly should not include neighbours who have denied us all access to archives and who have destroyed important documents and other evidence that could reveal historic truths that have carefully been kept from both historians and the general public for decades. Our strategic interest should focus more towards people who have a strong interest in getting to the bottom of dubious historical records, regardless of how uncomfortable this makes those who are responsible for them.

    • Yes indeed, Brankec – a relationship is a two way street and it’s a pity the Croatian government doesn’t seem to care about that especially when it comes to owning up to and revealing the truth … the “mileage” one may get by concealing or destroying evidence of truth is so temporary in the scale of life for truth has a way of finding itself…sadly though suffering does occur till then. Some of Croatia’s neighbours and indeed some of Croatia’s politicians have the gall to call the revelation of historic truth, a historic revisionism with negative connotations so one cannot rely on them at all…best strengthen relations with those who recognise the truth for what it is and who know how to admit a mistake when a mistake is made, and move forth in greater enlightenment rather than bitterness because their truth has been proven a lie.

    • Well said, brankec.

      All else I can say is, thank you, Dr. Gitman. The world needs to know the truth no matter because myths only hurt every victim of totalitarian regimes. I hope in time the world will open its eyes and understand how important all of this is.

  6. Hi Ina, My dad told me a story once of when Stepinac was in prison awaiting trial and that the UN or similar organisation visited. The prisoners were told by the guards to yell abuse at Stepinac so that the authorities could then tell the UN or similar organisation that Stepinac was despised. Once these visitors entered the prison, instead of abusing Stepinac, the prisoners all knelt an prayed thus humiliating the Communist Officials.

    • Thank you Zezevice and I fully believe the story. The communists hiding their own murderous deeds were prepared to do anything to throw off attention from them

  7. what an interesting story. There must be so many more things to uncover out there.

    • Thanks, psychologismimi, I guess uncovering the real truth is quite a job especially when history was written by those in whose interest it was not to say the truth but to make up things that suited their political agenda. Communists were specialists in such undertakings and researching archives once they are open to public and researchers brings home the picture that is entirely different to what they fed to people.

  8. Cheers, Clare 😀


  1. […] Also on Catholics in history: a Jewish academic works to rehabilitate the reputation of wartime bishop Aloysius Stepinac. […]

  2. […] etc. from WWII Nazi extermination! After all, all are aware of indisputable research findings by Dr. Esther Gitman (Rescue and Survival of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia, 1941-1945) and yet failed to […]

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