Open Letter to Mr. Efraim Zuroff (In Pursuit of Truth)

Prof. Emer. Matko Marusic, MD, PhD

(Translated from Croatian into English)

Prof. Emer. Matko Marušić, MD, PhD SPLIT, CROATIA

to Efraim Zuroff 1 Mendele Street Jerusalem 92147 ISRAEL

January 18, 2019

Esteemed Mr. Zuroff,

I read an article on January 10, 2019, posted on the Croatian portal Index.hr, of your demand that the Croatian Government ban the book Razotkrivena Jasenovačka laž [translates to: The Jasenovac Lie Disclosed]. To this end and for the sake of the accuracy of the claim, I quote excerpts from the article on Index.hr:

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, International Jewish Human Rights Organization, led by the famous Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff, harshly condemned the Croatian Government for their tolerance of works that negate Ustasha crimes during WWII. In a statement signed by the Center’s Director, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, and posted on their website, he forewarns of the promotion of the book Razotkrivena Jasenovačka Laž to be held January 16, 2019 in a church in Zagreb – a work which negates the systematic and mass execution of Serbs, Roma, Jews and Croatian anti-Fascists. The Jasenovac Triple Camp Research Society, sponsor of the event, was established to conceal the horrific crimes committed by the Ustasha, which are acts beyond compare in the Balkans. Crimes confirmed in historical documents, witness testimonies, and scientific findings of many prominent historians. Works such as the book Razotkrivena Jasenovačka laž would immediately be banned in Germany and Austria, and justifiably so, says Zuroff.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center called on Croatia to ban publications that negate and distort the role played by the NDH in the Holocaust. “As a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), Croatia should take every pertinent step to prevent all those who negate the Holocaust and misrepresent historical facts. Continued positive focus is placed on efforts to misconstrue and twist Croatian history, contrary to international commitments accepted by Croatia upon joining the IHRA,” said Mark Weitzman, the Center’s Political Director and former Chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Not going into deliberations over historical events of which I am not qualified, allow me to express my cordial but very serious objections to the above comments. It is very important that I do so, as I am a proven and sworn friend of the state of Israel, devotee of the Jewish people, and a Croat who is ashamed of the wrong deeds committed by a certain group of my people, known as the Ustasha and Ustasha regime, during WWII. I also believe that we Croats owe the Jewish people much in this regard, both as a nation and culture, but above all, sincere respect and regard. Also important is the fact that I am a devout Catholic, and thus have even more respect for the Jewish people, for the Lord my God was born unto them. I pray that you never underestimate this, regardless of how you feel about any religion, or lack thereof.

I am a scientist, biomedical researcher and university professor emeritus. Although I do not know much on the history or methodology of historical research, I do know the rules of scientific studies, methodology, publication, communication, and all that must go in stride with scientific analysis, whatever the field of research. I firmly call upon human common sense, goodwill, tolerance of diversity, and upholding the truth, wherever the absolute truth may lie, and how ever near or far it is to us as mere mortals. Allow me to illustrate with some very simple arguments, and present my deep and unsettling dissatisfaction with your reaction (in the belief that Index.hr quoted your statement accurately).

1. The lie on the number of victims in the Jasenovac Ustasha Concentration Camp existed and is proven

In communist Yugoslavia, all school children in every school were taught that 700,000 civilians, mostly Serbs, were killed in Jasenovac. This was written in our textbooks, encyclopedias, and very often in newspapers as well. The figure was not to be questioned, at the cost of severe consequences. For instance, the late Dr. Franjo Tuđman, first President of the free and democratic Republic of Croatia, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in the former regime for claiming in one of his books that the number of victims in Jasenovac ranged from 60,000 – 80,000. Neither Tuđman nor the Ustasha countered the claim of 700,000 deaths, not even Mr. Igor Vukić nor myself. The one to counter it, at the time of the same communist regime, was Mr. Vladimir Žerjavić – a Croatian economist, demographer and UN expert, who estimated the number of Jasenovac victims at roughly 50,000, which was then generally accepted. (It is impossible for me to state all the estimates and differences here, as I do not wish to burden you. I will stand by Mr. Žerjavić’s claim, for it was also accepted by Tito and his regime.)

The Jasenovac Memorial Site is a public institution in Croatia that lists each individual victim by name, and this figure amounts to approximately 84,000.

The issue has not been resolved to this day, but it suffices to state it in my message to you. Namely, if the lie that was officially taught in schools in the former regime shows a discrepancy ranging between 700,000 and 84,000, I urge you to be just as taken aback as I am, albeit I have all the more reason, for the atrocious lie was ascribed to my very own people (to whom I proudly and wholeheartedly belong). If it was objectively and indisputably proven to be a horrific, deliberate and malignant lie (to darken and disparage my beloved nation), then how, and based on what, can anyone, including yourself, have the audacity to believe this new figure (84,000), without the need for further investigation?

In short: The above example shows that every honest and educated man must persevere in research – not only for the sake of truth, but also to overcome lies as something unacceptable to Man, but especially because of what I am writing to you: to avoid any further disputes, tensions, and disruption of peace among the people.

2. Croatian society is torn apart by controversies over the number of Jasenovac victims, and a consensus of prominent experts has recommended the intensification of research and inquiry

I am referring to a document issued by the (Croatian) Council for Dealing with Consequences of the Rule of Non-Democratic Regimes:

The Council was established by the Government of the Republic of Croatia, aware of the fact that such controversies disrupt relations in Croatian society. Council members were selected from a number of different political groups, and one such member who signed the Document of Dialogue was Mr. Ivo Goldstein, whom I presume is quite well known to you.

I quote an applicable passage from the said Document:

Without going into the question of historical revisionism, one must note that where history is already revisionist, a new revisionism may emerge as a need for the revision of revisionism. A good practice of dealing with the past would be beneficial to historiographic research and others, with scientific exploration of sources, critical inquiry, non-selective choice and publishing of materials. This includes the availability of archival materials and new research to reveal the death toll of undemocratic regimes, as well as providing a dignified commemoration at the place of death and sacrifice. The former manipulation and discrepancies in the number of victims from any undemocratic regime continues to be an impediment in viewing the historical truth, whereas the same goes for facing the culture of dialogue and unfalsified historical remembrance. Here we are not at all referring to conscientious critical and scientific attestation of the actual number of victims, especially in cases where it is confirmed to be exponentially multiplied for political or other reasons.”

I do not know if you are aware of the existence of this document, but I would like to take this opportunity to kindly request that you take the time to look it over, as it is a document issued by the Government of the Republic of Croatia, and co-signed by Mr. Ivo Goldstein, which I believe undeniably proves its democratic character and consensus within Croatian society regarding the question of Croatian historical truth.

Igor Vukić

 

3. A few words on Mr. Igor Vukić

At this point I do not know the content of the book you are requesting the ban of, but I know Mr. Igor Vukić, Head of the “Jasenovac Triple Camp Research Society” and his works on Jasenovac. I had the honor of meeting Mr. Vukić myself and reading his works. I do not wish to be his “witness” here, but instead to express my personal and scientific opinion on him and his activities, of which I believe, I am entitled to as a proven scientist and professor of research methodology.

To begin, I apologize to Mr. Vukić (but he publicized this himself) – he is of Serb, Croat and Czech mixed origin, with a predominance of Serbian heredity. Second, he is from a village in the vicinity of the town of Jasenovac. Third, his father was in Jasenovac as a child. Fourth, Mr. Vukić is a very serious, educated and well-mannered man, and anyone who insults him also insults all other educated and well-mannered individuals – including myself. And I am not the least bit pleased with this (insulting). Mr. Vukić is not an Ustashe, nor is he a nationalist or revisionist. He is an intellectual, and one to be desired as a member of the most distinguished and civilized circles. (If you do not have confidence in my words, you should meet him yourself.)

And lastly, Mr. Vukić (and his co-workers) never concealed their findings, nor did they circulate them in secret. They published them as all qualified scientists do. These findings are, just as all other scientific insights, available to the global scientific community for verification and criticism.

I do not know, Mr. Zuroff, whether you or your associates have examined the works before demanding their ban – if you haven’t – I must warn that this is an inappropriate procedure, similar to the manner of Stalin (and Tito) with works that did not suit them. This must not be the practice of civilized and educated individuals in the 21st century, who ought to feel equal shame when others do the same. If, on the other hand, you took the time to study the works, no one is more delighted than I! We eagerly await your objective arguments countering them. I am not cheering on Mr. Vukić – we are not playing a soccer game. I am merely applauding the scientific truth. It is something of great importance to me, as I still distress over the claim of 700,000 Jasenovac victims – the reciting of which I received excellent grades in the primary and secondary schools, albeit oblivious to what was actually taking place.

At this point, if you do not know, I must inform you that some of Mr. Vukić’s findings were even accepted by his fervent opponents (forgive me again – by your like-minded contemporaries) Dr. Ivo Goldstein and Dr. Mirjana Kasapović. Upon examination of Mr. Vukić’s evidence, it was no longer disputable to them that Jasenovac was in fact a labor camp, that some prisoners and workers earned wages for their work, that the camp received aid packages from the outside (especially from the Croatian Jewish community) – and I apologize once again, but it was stated publicly – that different performances with singing were held there (we are not sure the names of all), including soccer tournaments.

Dr. Goldstein and Dr. Kasapović criticize Mr. Vukić for not providing evidence of countless executions in the camp, but they do not disparage my claim. I do believe, though, that the number of victims will ultimately be determined through consensus. For now, regarding the figures 700,000 and 84,000, the one that stands out most is the claim of Slovenian researcher Mr. Roman Leljak, who asserts that documents in Belgrade attest to roughly 1,600 victims in Jasenovac, half of which died of disease. I assume that you will also not take Mr. Leljak’s findings as true, and so I kindly ask you to verify this information yourself the next time you are in Belgrade.

(Permit me to suggest that in Belgrade you check the following Serbian newspaper articles published in Belgrade, during WWII (Cyrillic titles transcribed to Latin letters; roman numerals are months) Collated by Esther Gitman:

Dr. Esther Gitman, PhD

 

 

(PLEASE click on photos below to read contents of Table of World War Two Serbian newspaper articles on Jews, researched and collated by Dr Esther Gitman)

Page 1, WWII newspaper articles – Serbia

 

Page 2, WWII newspaper articles – Serbia

 

Page 3, WWII newspaper articles – Serbia

Page 4, WWII newspaper articles – Serbia

 

4. Documents

You may not like what you hear, but I must warn you that to date (in freedom from communist undemocratic terror), multitudes of documents have been published in Croatia, which attest to the fact that Mr. Vukić and his associates are right. If you succeed in prohibiting any evidence, you will be compelled to prohibit many other sources as well.

Speaking of documents, allow me the following. Complete documentation on the operations of the Ustasha camp in Jasenovac was kept (in Tito’s time) in Jasenovac.

During the Serbian aggression against Croatia from 1990-1995, Serb forces occupied Jasenovac very early on in 1991, confiscating all documentation and taking it to – Belgrade. The decision to submit all documents to Belgrade is indicative it itself, for Serbia claims it was initiated by a revolt of Serbs in Croatia (and that neither Serbia nor its army had anything to do with it). However, rebel Serbs in Croatia declared Knin as their capital, and thus it makes no sense to transfer the documents to Belgrade, does it? Furthermore, one wonders why Belgrade did not react in saying something like: “What are we to do with this? It is a matter between you and Croatia. Keep it in Knin, it is unfair to take away documents that do not belong to us, and by force, to boot.

I am led to believe that such discrete and sly action perfectly illustrates the fact that the aggression against Croatia in 1991 was committed by Serbia itself, and not Knin Serbs. This, however, is a whole other topic I do not wish to burden you with at this time.

But the saga on the Jasenovac documents is not over! Today, Serbia still refuses to return the documentation to Croatia, allegedly “fearing the Croats would use it to spread further lies about the Jasenovac camp.” I simply cannot comprehend this! First of all, if we are in fact dealing with the original documentation, then one cannot lie. Secondly, Serbia could easily leave copies for themselves (e.g. microfilm) or even the originals, and give copies to Croatia (microfilm). This would prevent Croatia from fabricating the truth – and I trust that you would find this quite acceptable.

5. Forensic research

As far as the number of Jasenovac victims is concerned, concrete and full-fledged research has been organized on three occasions in Tito’s time, through commissions and experts as appointed by the then regime. Digging and expert forensic excavations were conducted three times, at the sites of the “most massive and gruesome burial pits”, yielding a total of just under 500 skeletons. I feel it is logical that you (together with Mr. Vukić and myself) propose that excavations be resumed once again. I would be greatly pleased if you and your organization agree to take part in monitoring the said digging activities.

6. Jasenovac Research Institute

The story behind the Jasenovac Research Institute in New York is the same as the appalling (albeit proven, see above) lie on the 700,000 victims (JRI stands on 600,000), which I state here for the following reasons.

a) This figure, according to Tito’s expert, Mr. Žerjavić, and the list from the Jasenovac Memorial Site public institution (see above) is an outright lie and shame for humanity, history and all those who participate or uphold it. Even those who keep silent. Forgive me but I feel that you are among this last group as well! I never heard you state that the Jasenovac Research Institute cited inexcusable or erroneous figures (and names), and requested the correction thereof. Yet I am positive you are familiar with it, as it is not the small Jasenovac Memorial Site public institution in Croatia, but rather a major institute in the famous and illustrious city of New York!

b) At the trial of Croatian soccer player Joe Šimunić for cheering the ustashi salute “For the Homeland, Ready” (although he only shouted “For the Homeland”, but implicite it was clear what he was referring to), a testimony was given by Executive Director of the Jasenovac Research Institute, Mr. Barry M. Lituchy on the figure of 600,000 Jasenovac victims. His testimony was accepted, and Joe Šimunić was convicted with a sentence that ended his brilliant career as a professional soccer player. You are a world-renowned man, a specialist, and certainly an upright and benevolent human being, and I wonder why you did not intervene in this international affair, concerning a topic in your realm of expertise, and perhaps react by saying: “Honorable Magistrate, it is not 600,000, but 84,000, as is proven (and publicized) by experts from the Jasenovac Memorial Site public institution, who deal specifically and professionally with the issue at hand. I know them, they are honest and skilled people, colleagues of mine: call them to testify.”

c) I firmly believe you are aware that (even without a systematic analysis) thousands of people on the list compiled by the Jasenovac Research Institute as victims killed in Jasenovac actually died in other places. I will state an example closely related to me: In 1943, all the people (just over 100) killed during an allied bombing attack on the town of Kaštela (near the city of Split), when a bomb hit a church in Kaštela during Mass – are all listed as victims in the Jasenovac Research Institute, even though their graves, marked with their very names and bones, lie in the Kaštela cemetery.

7. A short but very important question

Mr. Zuroff, if you claim that 700,000 people were killed in Jasenovac, despite Mr. Žerjavić’s (50,000) and today’s official list in Jasenovac (about 84,000), I must express my deepest regret and frustration. I will deem that for some reason (unknown to me, I cannot even speculate) you may an enemy of my people and its state, regardless of what this means or does not mean to you. If that is the case, I would be very unhappy, but then I would not see that it is either sophisticated or democratic to address the Government which you perceive as an enemy. I feel uncomfortable even thinking about it, and only mentioned it you in the name of civilized and dignified behavior.

If, on the other hand, you say you do not know the number of Jasenovac victims, I beseech you to please speak to Mr. Igor Vukić and his associates, among all others, for he declares he has concrete documented data. This requires a scientific research method and ethics, as well as the most basic human earnestness and decency. It does not mean that Mr. Vukić (or Mr. Leljak) must be credited with the truth, but it certainly means that we ought to listen to his arguments and challenge them with better, stronger and more numerous arguments. Allow me to remind you that I, as a proven scientist, am also experienced in the methodology of assessing scientific arguments, their comparison and configuration, as well as the process of attaining human truth, no matter how far away or contrary it may be to that of the Lord’s.

8. A friendly opinion and counsel

I am saddened with your treatment of my people and my country. And to that of science and scientific truth, the consensus of well-intentioned and educated people, and the efforts of the Croatian Council for Dealing with Consequences of the Rule of Non-Democratic Regimes, which included the efforts of Mr. Ivo Goldstein (not to list the others). What you are doing is wrong. All people on earth today, including us Croats, are educated enough (free and mainly without prejudice of any sort) to look unfavorably on all bans or restrictions regarding any research topic that does not have full consensus. We see this as not only unfounded and unscientific, but also as something intended to hide the truth and promote lies, and both with dishonorable aims, for what other aims can stand behind hiding the truth and promoting lies? This, too, does not generate a good feeling.

The action you took, as related by Index.hr, brings no good to anyone – not for Croatia and the Croats, not for yourself, nor the honorable Jewish people from whom we have learned so much about wisdom, knowledge, science and respect for the truth – and all for the aim of a better, more peaceful and beautiful world. This is especially detrimental for the much-needed respect and remembrance of the tragedy suffered by the Jewish people during WWII, including all the misfortunes that came before and after. Forgive me for addressing you directly, but this is my honest belief, and I must say: The tragedy of WWII and its most horrific crime against the Jewish nation is so massive and atrocious that it cannot, and must not, be offended or disgraced by any trial or error, absolutely nothing at all! It is already too colossal to be exaggerated, and too dreadful to be seen as anything shy of respect and remorse.

In that name, allow me to personally apologize for all the foul and horrid things members of my people have done to yours in WWII, including everything that came before (Kingdom of Yugoslavia, before WW2) and after (Tito’s regime). May the Lord bless and keep both of us, together with our wonderful people, and let us pray that tragedies like this never happen again.

But we two also have the duty to contribute to this aim. Prof. Emer. Matko Marušić, MD, PhD, Split, Croatia

Comments

  1. for the benefit of all
    may the truth prevail 🙂

    Like

  2. That’s a “mic drop” if I’ve ever read one. I’m sure Mr. Zuroff knows exactly what he’s doing, but for him to lose control of this narrative could destroy his entire career and reputation. It only makes me wonder how much deeper it goes into Germany and other countries, and if he and others would be tried and locked away for life. I know that’s jumping too far ahead, but if he can casually speculate about genocide then I can about his intentions and actions.

    Like

  3. Finally….it takes someone like Matko Marusic to respond to all the lies and propaganda from Serbia, where even today the Croatian Communist Government is allowing the Serbs to spew hate against Croatia without sanction from useless Kolinda and Andre. Efraim needs to be educated truth about Jasenovac and not listen to Vucic’s Chetniks or Mesic’s Pro Yugoslav Partizans. Well done to Matko for also educating Efraim on the Serbian fascist policies towards Jews during WW2.( Nedic-Mihajlovic). For to long Serbs have avoided responsibility for their fascist policies towards Jews, Croats, Albanians and Bosniaks and others. They still deny Srebrenica was genocide. Croatia cannot move forward while these red bandits continue to hold power and suck the life out of our culture. We will never have another Franjo who would protect our nations interests. What a mess !

    Like

  4. Thank for sharing this amazing letter from Prof. Marusic.

    Like

  5. Miroslav Furić says:

    Most of the people in Croatia know that Tito has produced grossly false number of victims of the WW2 in order to get money from Germany! The wish of Professor Emeritus Marusic is a simple one: finding the truth from the existing documents. Serbia has those documents and Serbia (even in position to select among them) should make them available to researchers.

    Like

  6. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    THE HOLOCAUST IS NOT SOMEBODY’S FIGMENT OF THEIR IMAGINATION—EXCEPT FOR FOLKS WHO LIVE AND HATE LIKE NAZIS!

    Like

  7. This response needs to be published in newspapers of record like th NYT. Croatia burdened with so many lies and deceit needs to vigorously defend itself which it has failed miserably. Historical truth must be proven and must include an international dimension. And can someone wake up the Cro government and let them know that Croatia is burning; lit and stoked by Serbian imperialists. Let’s finally bring the Croatian charade to an end.

    Like

  8. I admire your efforts to present the truth.

    Like

  9. Detroit_Croat says:

    Dr. Marusic’s comments are well known to the Croatian Diaspora and nothing new, but difference here he is speaking to facts and documented evidence. We all know communism goal was to subvert the truth and spread false information which was taught and known in the west. Why is it now difficult and discouraged by some, i.e. Efraim Zuroff, to penetrate the lies of communism? I question his motives here versus that of Mr. Vukic and Leljak.

    Like

    • I reckon Zuroff’s motives includes covering up of communist crimes, which, by the way, were much much worse that the crimes of any other political platform in the history of mankind, Detroit_Croat.

      Like

  10. Your research, summations and arguments are remarkably strong. I hope it has the desired impact.

    Like

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