Prickly Croatia – Israel Relations: Aloysius Stepinac’s List Was Longer Than Schindler’s!


Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic at Yad Vashem/ Israel with Branko Lustig (in hat)  Photo: Office of President, RH

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
at Yad Vashem/ Israel with
Branko Lustig (in hat)
Photo: Office of President, RH

For reasons many cannot understand, even if their bias against Croatia is profound, Israel’s political establishment had in 1997 taken an anti Croatia, anti-Franjo Tudjman stand. Indeed, Israel had then pronounced Franjo Tudjman a “persona non grata” in Israel because, it was reported, Tudjman had in his books underestimated the number of Jews that perished in the Holocaust! Indeed, Tudjman was labelled by various Jewish organisations across the world as Holocaust denier and anti-Semitic because of the numbers he estimated perished in the Holocaust. Overestimates or possible overestimates of number of Jews that perished in the Holocaust had never, so many decades after the fact of the Holocaust, to my knowledge, set in motion such hateful and drastic measures on the level of state relations!

After Franjo Tudjman’s death in 1999 all three Presidents of Croatia had officially visited Israel, apologising for the crimes of the Holocaust that occurred during WWII in Croatia. Apologies, of course, are always the right thing to do as they contain, or should contain, the spirit of regret and compassion and, hopefully, determination that things apologised for shall never reoccur. Presidents Stjepan Mesic (2000-2010) and Ivo Josipovic (2011-2015) are both of hard-core communist extraction and had, as expected, molded their apologies for the Holocaust while in Israel in such a way to openly suggest that fascist or Nazi supporters were still active or “mysteriously in ghost-like fashion coming out of the woodwork” in Croatia – still.  “Apologies” of this nature are nothing more than attempts, on false but politically potent grounds, to cover up communist crimes committed in Croatia during and after WWII. Many Croatia’s “leading” Jews had, particularly since 1991, followed the same line because I dare say, most were and are communists of former Yugoslavia.

It is of great importance to note that no president of Croatia has so far, it seems, “lobbied” to Israel regarding the factual research findings by Dr Esther Gitman about the significant work of Croatia’s Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac, beatified and in line to be canonised a Saint of the Catholic Church.

Blessed Alojzije (Aloysius) Stepinac Oil painting Croatian Church Chicago

Blessed Alojzije (Aloysius) Stepinac
Oil painting Croatian Church Chicago

It is certainly not far fetched, by a long shot, to conclude that Croatian pro-communist Jewish and Serb lobby would not want Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac vindicated by indisputable facts which point to the overwhelming lies and false grounds upon which communists persecuted him as Nazi-collaborator immediately after WWII. Former communist operatives and influential persons within the Yugoslav Communist Party between WWII and 1991 have too much face to lose were the truth to be accepted as truth. No matter, the truth still stands and its enemies are identified in this case. The battles for truth and recognition of it may, hence, be easier than before.

Modern Croatia is not a successor to the World War II independent state of Croatia and its ideologies,” Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic told i24news, in an exclusive interview at the end of a two-day visit to Israel, 24 July 2015. Kitarovic, who during her visit participated in a Yad Vashem ceremony in which Croatian-American producer Branko Lustig donated his “Schindler’s List” Oscar to the Holocaust memorial, brushed off any connection to what she calls “a dark period in our history that casts a shadow on Croatia’s past.”

I find it regretful that there seems to have been no opportunity during this visit to refer to Blessed Aloysius Stepinac while at Yad Vashem or elsewhere in Israel. Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac had his own “Shindler’s list” and saved thousands upon thousands of Jews during WWII Croatia! After access to historical documents/archives had been possible at the fall of communist Yugoslavia his “list” is found to have been much longer than Schindler’s! His list was longer than Schindler’s and yet state politics keep this truth hidden or are not inclined to talk about it publicly!


A book by Esther Gitman

A book by Esther Gitman

Part of Croatia’s World War II history, the collaboration with the Nazis has been a prickly issue in diplomatic relations with Israel, which were established in 1997. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has, on this occasion of visiting Israel, maintained the stance of her predecessors Mesic and Josipovic, and “focuses on building relations with Israel today and is strongly committed to the victims and survivors in order to prevent future atrocities”. “There is no connection today between the Nazi ideology and modern Croatia,” Grabar-Kitarovic said, and vowed that she feels “no resentment” from her Israeli counterparts, reports i24 news.
In addition to the Ustashi regime, which was a collaborationist Nazi regime, there was comparably one of the biggest anti fascist uprising resistance movements in Croatia,” Grabar-Kitarovic said, mentioning that members of her own family participated in this movement. “These people who fought fascism and Nazism put Croatia on the right side of history, and what is embedded in our constitution today is our anti-fascist and anti-Nazi roots and the Homeland War that we fought back in the 90s in order to liberate Croatia from aggression and occupation,” Grabar-Kitarovic said in Israel last week.
I use this opportunity to condemn every totalitarian regime – Nazism, Fascism, Communism,” said President Grabar-Kitarovic at Yad Vashem in Israel, and emphasised education as the strongest weapon against every form of radical ideology, divisions, hatred and racism. “We must tell the truth because we are denuded in this place, we have no and carry none of our official functions. We are here as human beings. As people, as parents, sisters and brothers we have the responsibility to pursue for the truth.”

All what President Grabar-Kitarovic said in Israel last week stands as truth but such plethora of historical references still omit the fact that many, including Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac, are considered as Nazi-collaborators, participants in the Holocaust, when the truth and facts point the other way – the righteous way! So, I often agonise and ponder: why is it so difficult for the Holocaust remembrance environment to accept the truth about Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac’s role in helping and rescuing Jews? An answer that comes to mind is that communists of former Yugoslavia have, on false grounds and utter lies, made Aloysius Stepinac synonymous with the concept and reality of the Holocaust in Croatia and to now accept him for what he truly was – innocent of those charges, would somehow take  a significant part of the heavy gravity away from the act of the Holocaust! So, the Holocaust remembrance environment seems in part to prefer perpetuation of untruths rather than facing the truth. Nothing can take away the heavy gravity the Holocaust carries for human kind – for it was an abomination – but unjust treatment of individuals within this environment, unwillingness to recognise the actual rather than reported or estimated truth, do add to its tragedy for human justice. I do hope that the pursuit of truth of the Holocaust in Croatia will surface with the righteousness of Blessed Aloysius Stepinac: with a proud revelation of a Schindler’s List not even the revered Schindler could match! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. The President seems to be going the right way to reach a reconciliation with Israel. It’s no surprise that she wouldn’t get much support from the Communist Party who certainly did their best to continue the work of the Nazi Party as they had done before the war.
    Croatia could do much on the world stage of showing how two countries can come together despite a checquered past where one country has grown in it’s Statehood and started to elect those who want to go forward instead of remain the same as the Communists do.It’s my hope that the accord with Israel is just the first step. I hope that future elections create a new power base of those who want to see Croatia a true democratic Country with no leanings towards the past.To show other Countries how to move forwards until the Communist way, the fascist way, are things of the past.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • Well said, David, “going” the right way is operative word here. The only way t move forward is by showing the truth and the full truth has yet to be shown, though. As we all know, Israel the modern state did not exist in WWII as it was declared in 1948 and so the question of reconciliation is much wider in world-wide sense as I don’t think Israel represents all Jews affected by the Holocaust. There are those who certainly do not agree with Israel’s stand on these matters and especially when it comes to Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac, there are those in Israel whose views and hardheadedness are actually insulting. I too hope Croatia will end up to serve as an example for shining with the truth in the end, too many “red devils” spoiling it so far.

  2. Jeremiah says:

    Well, it seems that it’s useless for Croatian presidents to talk to Israel about the anti-fascist and anti-Nazi fighting in WWII – when it comes to former Yugoslavia the Serbs and Serbia have made sure that they, not Croats or Slovenes or Bosnians are crowned with anti-Nazi fighting and Tito as being leader of Serbian Partisans according to this Israeli article from late 20914

    Croatia needs much stronger politicians or political approach otherwise the lies Serbia has laid on will never be washed away.

  3. Observer of Truth says:

    Zagreb–In early October Pope John Paul beatified Cardinal Aloysius (Alojzije) Stepinac. Stepinac was the Archbishop of Zagreb from 1937 until his arrest, trial and imprisonment by Tito’s Communist authorities in 1946 on the trumped-up charges of collaboration with the local Nazis. After five years in prison and a phony show trial, then current practice under Marxist totalitarian regimes, he lived in his home village under strict house arrest until his death in 1961.

    The Marxist propaganda machine convinced many leftist intellectuals and their supporters in the outside world that the Cardinal was a war criminal. Reviled by the court for supposed complicity in the execution of some 200,000 Orthodox Croatians, Serbs, and Jews, the outside world looked askance at him till this day, seeing him mainly through the socialist eyes of Serbs and Jews. (Editor: In Canada, one such example is Ted Schmidt of the Catholic New Times.)

    Proper scholarship has shown that while Stepinac–like many fellow Croatians–welcomed the Nazi puppet regime of the Ustasha in 1941, he lost confidence in them as news of their crimes reached him. He then became a critic and actively worked to save Jewish and Serbian lives.

    In the weeks before the beatification, The Tablet of London (Oct. 10) reports, Jewish organizations in Croatia issued a statement about the beatification.

    “The Jews in Croatia,” it said, “are grateful to Cardinal Stepinac for advocating the salvation of many Jews during the Ustasha Independent State of Croatia” (which lasted from 1941 to 1945). The statement credits the cardinal with “success in saving from Nazi and Ustasha genocide the residents of the Lavoslav Schwartz retirement home, several groups of Jewish children and several hundreds of converted Jews in mixed marriages.”

    The Jewish groups concluded: “The beatification of Cardinal Stepinac is an autonomous decision of the Catholic Church and the Co-ordination of Jewish municipalities in Croatia will not object to it.”


  4. Michael Silovic says:

    The book is a very good read. Problem is Israel will not accept any truths other than what they want to say is the only truths.Everyone lies or has no idea what they are talking about when it comes to Israel. Croatia needs to stop apologizing for the past to Israel as it is beginning to look as if we are beggars asking for forgiveness when in fact we have no need to apologize for our history. Croatia has had its own holocaust where so many have been murdered and tortured and I see no one apologizing to us.I don’t think I want to say so much more because I am sure everyone by now knows my position on Israel and the Israeli government seems no better than the Nazis were other then to say they haven’t used gas chambers yet but I wouldn’t put it past them

    • Yes Michael, I too believe that Israel is not an exclusive country that has citizens who mourn for victims of Holocaust or Communist Crimes for that matter. I thought that one apology is adequate and that it lasts but it seems there is an endless need to keep apologising for some and for others, not! Yet similar tragedies bind them. Whether gas or bombs kill innocent civilians in a war they are all of same atrocity no matter who commits them.

    • choirboy says:

      It seems to me Israel has been and is getting a lot of “mileage” from the Holocaust – it it weren’t for the Holocaust Israel as a state would not exist today and it’s the Holocaust that seems to give it excuse or justification to do what it wants across Palestine. Very much similar scenario to what Serbia has! No wonder the Jewish lobby is seemingly “palzi-walzi” with the hideous denial of genocide and crimes Serbia is on about.

      In actuality, there are descendants of Holocaust survivors all over the world, even in Croatia, since we are on the issue of Croatian visit to Israel – so why concentrate of Israel? Beyond my acceptable norms.

  5. Stevie10703 says:

    I just want to point out that there is a High School in New York named after Stepinac which I attended. It opened its doors in 1948 and the school is still going strong after almost 68 years. Two of its graduates include actors Alan Alda and John Voight.

    • That’s great to hear, Stevie10703. Thank you. I believe many cities in the “West” also have “institutions” carrying his name – PROUDLY – such as retirement villages, nursing homes, clubs… their founding fathers knew the righteousness Stepinac stood for and good on them for sticking with the truth

      • Stevie10703 says:

        Ina, the school was opened and run by the Archdiocese of New York and not by Croatians and you have to pay tuition to go there. I know during my time at the school there weren’t too many Croatians that went there just a few of us.

      • Oh, that’s great Stevie10703 – fantastic, thank you

  6. We need a check the facts type website asa destination of record to establish and document the truth. During the UN sessions when states get to make speeches about their interests we should lobby KGK to highlight the achievements of the Cardinal and his sainthood as historical and undisputed facts. Our EU parliamentarians should also go on record in Parliament to set the record straight and even hold a vote on the Cardinal as a true and dignified human being whose efforts saved thousands of people; they could even create a bill to have a holiday named after the Cardinal and even that he get a portrait on EU currency. Jewish groups in Croatia should submit the Cardinal for memorialization in Yad Vashem as righteous. So many things we can do…just have to STOP playing defence and start going of the offensive with truth. To the Serbia the truth is murderous of their reality.

    • Yes Sunman, I agree especially lobbying and if need requesting greater assertion of the truth from Croatian leaders and politicians. A public holiday in Stepinac’s honour is such a great idea,also.

    • Zoran Nosic says:

      Sunman, you provide some great ideas on how to change the game. I am totally in agreement that one can only say “sorry” on deaf ears so many times before it becomes useless. Unfortunately, taking the “offensive” won’t happen until the political climate in Croatia changes.

    • Looks like the Chetniks beat us to the ‘punch’ they launched their website telling their version of operation Storm. Wonder if Pupovac would be so concerned about Croatians victims and their right to return home if the Serb had won??

  7. Buna ziua, InaVukic !
    Felicitari pentru postare ! 🙂
    Multumesc pentru vizita si like ! 🙂
    Weekend placut ! 🙂
    Cu respect,

  8. Croatian-Israeli-Guy says:

    My Croatian-Jewish family after second world war moved to Israel from Croatia. They were saved by the socialist liberation army. Many Jewish life’s were lost in Croatia and Serbia. Everyone in recent Balkan story always talks about how the Serbs were the victims of second world war what a silly thing to say ! were they the victims when they killed the jews ? in fact the Bosnian Muslims were the victims of Serbian Fascist genocide 1940-1945 when they lost 110000 people the ethnic group who lost most during second world war in Yugoslavia. For our part living in the Balkan is the past we have our own homeland today prosperous with a bright future and with a strong defense. The enemy lost in the end……

    • Croatian-Israeli-Guy thank you on comment. Regretfully a large part of Serbia’s “success” in hiding, denying and underplaying its terrible role in the Holocaust (94% Serbia’s Jews exterminated by May 1942 through the collaboration of Serbia’s Milan Nedic government and Serbs who brought Jews to slaughter and held guard of extermination camps as well as being the among first nations in Europe to declared “Judenfrei” “Jew-free” state) lies in support from within Istrael, particularly the seemingly very politically corrupt Efraim Zuroff from Simon Wiesenthal Center etc. To this day I cannot understand nor condone the perpetuation of such denials and lies – to my thinking such an “alliance” undoes or devalues much of the good work done by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. No other national group of former Yugoslavia had ever encroached on other nation’s territory and tried to grab it through aggression, ethnic cleansing and genocide except Serbia.

      • Croatian-Israeli-Guy says:

        I don’t know what Efraim has said but one thing is sure, many of those American journalists and media who exposed Serb war Crimes in the 1990s and showed the world that Serbia was the evil one during the conflict were Jewish. Simon Wiesenthal Centre leaders in the 90s called NATO to bomb the Serbs in order to stop the genocide in Bosnia. If you read online Serb propaganda Jews are blamed for being the brain behind a worldwide anti Serb conspiracy. Yes there were deep support to Tito and his party from Yugoslav Jews since they were the only group in the war who were not killing the Jews and promising a tolerant society rejecting anti jewish racism. Yes I always laugh when i see Serb war Propagandists who condemns Croats for being Nazi collaborators and murders of Jews. Perfect example of the The pot calling the kettle black.

      • Well we are yet to see Simon Wiesenthal Center pursue a Serb from WWII Serbia as they did the “bookkeeper of Auschwitz” recently – to put it plainly, Croatian-Israeli-Guy. I know for a fact that this Center says all Holocaust in Serbia was done by occupying German forces and the absolutely was not true” Serbs brought the Jews to slaughter, held guard at concentration camps, supplied the Nazis with what was necessary to implement extermination… Thank you and kind regards

      • Croatian-Israeli-Guy says:

        That is just so disgusting said by Simon Wiesenthal Center! The Serbs are the biggest anti Jewish racists in Europe and they were the ones who did it no German forced them to do it! Serb Nationalists were pro Nazi Germany and was also fighting against Tito! They are mocking the 20000 Jewish community who died in Serbia!!! they must have been paid by Serbia ! Serb hate to Jews is pure and homegrow nothing to do with Germany.

      • I agree, Croatian-Israeli-Guy – it is disgusting to say the least

  9. I did not know about this at all. thanks for sharing. always so interesting and informative.

  10. Zoran Nosic says:

    Ina, a politically sensitive topic indeed, but handled with precision. Thanks.

  11. Reblogged this on Brittius.

  12. I hope the Cardinal will get the right recognition. I know from own research of Catholic attempts to save the Jews in Slovakia and have read Ellis Shuman’s account of similar activities in Bulgaria. It would be a shame if the same efforts in Croatia were to be denied.
    As much good as Schindler did, there is probably a slight difference between the Hollywood version and the motifs behind actions from industrialists like him. Let’s be proud of all people who tried to do good and recognise them all.

  13. domingo says:

    Several years ago I read several stories regarding Pius XII. During WW11 he was responsible for saving over 800,000 Jewish lives and immediately after the war, several prominent Jews thanked him for protecting their people…these people included Golda Meir, Alfred Einstein, Pinchas Lapide, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem – Isaac Herzog…it goes on and on and on.

    In the 60’s, the Russian KGB attempted to smear Pius XII by portraying him as a Nazi sympathizer…the info was later debunked by a Romanian general, but the damage was done and Jews around the world have hung onto the notion that Pius XII had failed them and although the information is free for all to see, Pius XII is now considered the enemy!

    My mother used to pray at Cardinal Stepinac’s Memorial, she loved him and spoke to us about him. I’m saddened that people would go to great lengths to offend and destroy a good man’s reputation, only to allow themselves to be the victim!

    • Thank you domingo – I guess some people accept the lies because it’s a way of maintaining a victim status to a deeper degree…but what is sad is that truth suffers and then once truth conquers the consequences of following lies are much greater and innocent people suffer rather than politicians who set the lies up. When it comes to Russia, they had a huge interest in blackening people for the Holocaust: that way they kept and gained “friends” and they managed to bury their own genocide during Stalin years, which was much worse than the Holocaust.

  14. Celebrate all the heroism in that period of darkness. Always some people behave with integrity.

  15. Stevie10703 says:

    Tito and his band of socialist/communist murderers blackened the name of the Croatian people and Stepinac especially because Stepinac loved his Croatian people while the Yugoslav Tito needed to destroy the man, much like the KGB tried to destroy Pope Pius. First Stepinac was a symbol of Croatian independence something that Tito and his nationalist Yugoslav Partizans did not want because their mantra was “in order for Yugoslavia to live Croatia must die,” and they had to go after one of Croatia’s biggest symbols and that was Stepinac. Even during Stepinac’s trial they told him that they could elevate him to the highest heavens if he broke away from Rome and created a Catholic Church separate from the Vatican and if he renounced anything to do with Croatian independence and he refused so they destroyed him and in term started smearing the Croatian people while sweeping under the rug what they themselves did and their Serbian brothers as well did during WWII and well after it ended.

    • Communists staged a false trial, false charges, false evidence against Stepinac…and tragically he was one among many victims of communist crimes! Thanks you for your comment

  16. Ina, thanks for posting. Much of the historical record during WW2 is ignored, thanks to a lobby of ‘Yugoslav-oriented’ pseudo intellectuals and their communist friends. There is much out there if one takes the time to actually read it. Sadly a lot of it is in Croatian but there are books in English from the 1960s (i.e. Pattee’s book) that attest to then Cardinal Stepinac’s righteousness. Note too: much of the credible information comes from the postulator for the cause of his canonization, Dr. Juraj Batelja’s office. He has for years, meticulously researched the case of Blessed Stepinac and has thousands of documents in Croatian, English, Italian, German, French….. that attest to Bl. Stepinac’s great deeds. Remember, not everyone can become a saint. I would sooner take the resources Dr. Batelja has at his disposal than any other government, organization, or insignificant reporter.

  17. Veronika says:

    “I find it regretful that there seems to have been no opportunity during this visit to refer to Blessed Aloysius Stepinac while at Yad Vashem or elsewhere in Israel.” – Ina, this is absolutely the best comment in your piece. The Croatian President and her advisors should take note. Well said Ina. Bravo.

  18. therealamericro says:

    Darko Zubrinic long ago provided a fine debunking of certain myths:

    In terms of Tudman, his “controversial” conclusions which were cherry picked and never put into context, are now supported by the United States Holocaust Museum.

    Tudman estimated that in total 45,000 to 95,000 persons of all ethnicities perished in Jasenovac, contrary to the greater Serbian ultranationalist and Yugoslav socialist ultranationalist propaganda of 700,000, to 1.2 million, to “the greatest death chamber in all of human history.

    Unfortunately the likes of Goldstein Sr. and Jr. get more air time than successful, patriotic and fact provider Jakov Beininfeld, who served Tudman in the 1990s.

    • I wish, all Croatian presidents visiting Israel after Tudjman’s death in 1999 made an effort to reiterate such facts you write about here, therealamericro. There are way of achieving this without appearing hostile or unfriendly. Not to do that means letting “the Goldsteins” and “the Zuroffs”of this world feed their repulsive fictions.

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