What is the Holocaust memory in Serbia: suffering of Jews in Serbia or in Croatia?

This letter had recently been offered for publication in The Times of Israel, but the editors decided not to publish it. However, it asks a relevant question (in the title) and offers several links to important articles which may be unknown to the readers interested in the subject of Serbian misuse of the Holocaust. So, we offer them here.

The letter

On July 12, 2021, in The Blogs section of The Times of Israel, Mr. Ronen Shnidman reported from the Belgrade meeting of remembrance of the last survivors of the WWII Jasenovac camp in Croatia. The report is entitled “Serbia’s Holocaust memory and the ties that bind us” (https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/serbias-holocaust-memory-and-the-ties-that-bind-us/). After reading the report I wondered what the “memory of Holocaust” in Serbia should have been: suffering of Jews in Serbia or in Croatia? Are the Serbs who perished in Jasenovac (Croatia) a part of the Holocaust victims, and if they are, are Croats and Roma also victims, as well as Poles and all other non-Jewish nations who perished in other concentration camps during the WW II? To answer these questions would perhaps be inappropriate from me as I am a Croat born after the WW II, and my ancestors had neither participated in the war nor perished in it, but Mr. Shnidman’s report indeed elicits several questions.

Starting “lightly”, Shnidman reports on the speech of Ms. Danijela Danon „Danon is the granddaughter of the Jasenovac victim Rabbi Daniel Isak Danon and delivered a speech at the Jasenovac Martyrs event held at the Serbian Academy of the Sciences and Arts.” If the family of Ms. Danon was from Serbia, how had Rabbi Danon ended up in Jasenovac, another state and hundreds of kilometers away? If they lived in Zagreb, capital of Croatia, how come that Ms. Danijela lives in Belgrade and talks – to the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts? Why didn’t she, or anybody else at the meeting, remember the letter that Philip J. Cohen, the American publicist of Jewish origin and former advisor to the UN in Bosnia and Hercegovina, addressed to rabbi Abraham Cooper at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre on February 27th, 1992, in which Cohen pointed out that antisemitism has been deeply ingrained into Serb history. He also unmasked the propaganda of ‘Greater Serbia’, which at the start of the nineties accused Croatia of fascism and antisemitism.

Shnidman wrote: “Some 57 different documented methods of death were employed at Jasenovac. These were used in the killing of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Serbs and tens of thousands of Jews, Roma and Croatian anti-fascists.” However, “the methods of death” have no forensic evidence found so far. The evidence so far found does not point to the claim that, many, „tens of thousands of Jews, Roma and Croatian anti-fascists” have been slaughtered in Jasenovac. Namely, Jasenovac is still a place wrapped in the fog of communist myths and lack of systematic investigation and, as such, a victim to Serbian anti-Croat propaganda.

Disputes apart, there are three things that are true and verifiable:

  1. Three expert forensic investigations done at the sites in Jasenovac by the Yugoslav communist regime in 1964, indicated that allegedly most numerous mass graves contained a total of fewer than 500 skeletons of unknown origin.
  2. The list of Jasenovac victims maintained by the Public Establishment Memorial Park Jasenovac (PEMP Jasenovac, approximately 84,000 names) has been unequivocally proven to have been made up (or fabricated) (https://arxiv.org/pdf/2012.11574.pdf): all lists of victims maintained by United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington were analyzed on the years of birth of listed victims, and only the Jasenovac one came out as statistically impossible.
  3. iii) Yugoslavian censuses before and after WW II reveal that, in comparison to the pre-war data, the post-war number of Croats had decreased, and the number of Serbs increased.

The Museum of Genocide Victims in Belgrade claims almost the same number of victims as PEMP Jasenovac, but the full list has never been either compared or aligned; at the same time, Jasenovac Research Institute in New York speaks about 600,000 Jasenovac victims, and Dr. Gideon Greif (mentioned as an authority in Shnidman’s text) of 700,000. How is it possible to have such great discrepancies in the number of victims?

Recently, Australian analyst Mr. David Goldman published an article in the Jerusalem Post (JP) under the title “This disgraceful mocking of the Holocaust needs to stop immediately” (https://m.jpost.com/opinion/this-disgraceful-mocking-of-the-holocaust-needs-to-stop-now-676707/amp?__twitter_impression=true), saying that Serbia used lies about Jasenovac to position Serb sufferings during WW II under the Holocaust. The acting director of the Museum of Genocide Victims in Belgrade, Mr. Dejan Ristić, sent a protest letter to JP (https://www.jpost.com/opinion/shame-on-those-who-seek-to-revise-history-of-the-holocaust-opinion-676992), and the article by Goldman was withdrawn. Ristić vehemently attacked Goldman as a “revisionist”. The editors did not know, I suppose, that Dr. Ristić at the same time denied genocide committed by Serbian forces in Srebrenica in 1995, and called upon all Serbian scientists to intensify investigations to prove that the Srebrenica massacre (around 8,000 victims) was not a genocide (http://www1.srna.rs/novosti1/922650/ristic-u-srebrenici-nije-bilo-genocida–incko-pocinio-pravno-nasilje.htm).

Serbian strategy of copying the Holocaust of Jews for Serbian WW II victims has been recognized and criticised before Goldman’s JP’s article (which was taken down by the JP a few days after publishing it):

  1. https://haifaholocauststudies.wordpress.com/2017/06/04/holocaust-discourse-as-a-screen-memory-the-serbian-case/; https://haifaholocauststudies.wordpress.com/tag/dr-lea-david/
  2. https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2021-02-04/review-dara-jasenovac-holocaust-drama-serbia
  3. https://variety.com/author/jay-weissberg/
  4. https://forward.com/culture/463544/dara-of-jasenovac-serbian-oscar-controversy-genocide-holocaust-croatia/?gamp&__twitter_impression=true
  5. https://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2021/07/erasing_the_history_of_the_holocaust.html (David Goldman’s article on Serbian strategy to invade the Holocaust with its Jasenovac victims that has not been withdrawn).

Serbian abuse of history has been notified long ago (Christopher Bennett. How the Serbs Abuse History. Wall Street Journal, Eastern edition [New York, N.Y] 7 May 1999: A18.; Philip J. Cohen. Serbia’s Secret War: Propaganda and the Deceit of History. College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press; 1996.). This abuse includes (mis)use of the Holocaust, which is outrageous! Philip Cohen rightfully called it desacralization of the Holocaust (Cohen, Philip J. 1993. Desecrating the Holocaust: Serbia’s Exploitation of the Holocaust as Propaganda. Philip J. Cohen.). I am afraid that Shnidman, Ristić and Greif, intentionally or not, support and/or follow that Serbian strategy. Mr. Shnidman’s report in The Times of Israel on Belgrade meeting “Serbia’s Holocaust memory and the ties that bind us” is in line both with abuse of history and desacralization of the Holocaust, in one sentence – “Serbian anti-Semitism, historical revisionism and exploitation of Holocaust as propaganda”, as P.J. Cohen spelled it out in 1992. If anybody would think that this is too harsh a judgement, I would like to see a milder one.

Matko Marušić

Split, Croatia, October 2021

About Matko Marušić: born in Split, Croatia, in 1946; he is Professor Emeritus at the University of Split, Split, Croatia. He was a Professor at Medical Schools (in Zagreb and Split) in courses of Physiology, Immunology, Principles of Research in Medicine, and of Research Methodology at postgraduate programs.He published 190 articles in scientific journals cited in Web of Science (H-index=28) and has around 150 publications including articles in scientific journals, books, book chapters, and a number of polemics and educational texts. He was a president of the Croatian Association of Physiologists, founder and Co-Editor-in-Chief of Croatian Medical Journal (1991-2009), Associate Dean of Zagreb University School of Medicine for School Branches in Osijek and Split, and Dean of the University of Split School of Medicine. He was one of the organisers and leaders of the humanitarian action ‘White Road for Nova Bila and Silver Bosnia’ (1993/94). He published many short stories and a collection of children stories ‘Snijeg u Splitu’ (The Snow in the City of Split) and ‘Plaču li anđeli’ (Do Angels Cry?). He also published the book of essays ‘Živjeti u Župi Radobilji’ (Living in the Radobilja Parish) and humoristic books ‘Škola plivanja’ (Swimming lessons), ‘Medicina iznutra’ (Medicine from Inside), and ‘Life of an Editor’. In 2018 he published his biggest literally work ‘Mi Hrvati’ (We Croats). (Brief biography and photo from University of Split website, October 2021)

Comments

  1. MIISINFORMATION ABBOUNDS!

  2. Enough experts have given opinions now that some attention should be paid to them.. Enough time has passed that few survivors of the events exist any more. We should be prepared for the truth to come out and accept the truth of what happened and ensure our countries neve repeat the same mistakes again.
    Massive Hugs

  3. Inavulkic. Las noticias que me llegaban en los medios en Colombia, me tenían en la oscuridad acerca de Croacia, país que aprendí a reconocer desde sus futbolistas y un escritor que traducía un sacerdote amante del ajedrez llamado Boddan. Me llevas y he decidido estudiaros, una cultura sorprendentemente antigua que confundía con Búlgaros y en esa zona Otomana los veía como una aldea y andaba más perdido. Tu blog es mi norte. Mucha gracias por tu buena información. Leo ahora un libro sobre Neardentales y reconozco orígenes de de antepasados míos que viajaron en el tiempo y en la sangre, siento una hermandad nueva. Abrazo desde Cali.

    • TRANSLATION: Inavulkic. The news that reached me in the media in Colombia kept me in the dark about Croatia, a country that I learned to recognize from its footballers and a writer who translated a priest who loves chess named Boddan. You take me and I have decided to study you, a surprisingly old culture that I confused with Bulgarians and in that Ottoman area I saw them as a village and was more lost. Your blog is my north. Thank you very much for your good information. I read now a book on Neighbors and I recognize origins of my ancestors who traveled in time and in the blood, I feel a new brotherhood. Hug from Cali.
      REPLY: Thank you so very much Cali

  4. Ronen Shnidman says:

    I came across your blog while looking for Goldman’s article. Your insinuations against the family of Ms. Danon are simply incorrect. Her family originates from Sarajevo and came to Belgrade after the war.

    As for the rest of your blog post, all I can say is that I look forward to the opportunity to go to Croatia to learn more. I actually planned to go my last time in the region, but my trip got cut short.

    The Balkans is quite a complex region, just like the Middle East. I make do with the information I have and try to keep an open mind.

    If you have any credible sources of information on the Jewish community of Croatia, Aloysius Stepinac or Jasenovac you are welcome to send it to me.

    At the moment, I am actually particularly interested in the pre-war Jewish community of Osijek because it was a key Zionist community in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

    All the best,
    Ronen

    • Thank you on your comment Ronen, however you seem to have overlooked the fact the article you refer to was written by a very credible academic source from Croatia. You as for material from credible sources but you do not give example of which sources you consider credible. There is quite a body of work on Jasenovac, Aloysius Stepinac that is by many considered credible eg works by Dr Esther Gitman, Blanka Matkovic, Stipo Pilic, Robyn Harris, Igor Vukic etc…As to Osijek and its pre-war Jewish community I am not specifically aware of works but will inquire.

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