Remembering the Bleiburg Massacres and Communist Yugoslavia Crimes Against Croatian Patriots

Map of Mass Graves of victims of communist Yugoslavia crimes in Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina compiled in 2017 by Croatian association of historians “Dr Rudolf Horvat”, PHOTO: Screenshot 15 May 2021 https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1acZrR00vSr3kkgGXBZUsSL0Dbk&ll=43.93469114726703%2C18.12258350000001&z=7

Today, in Croatia, the communist Yugoslavia legacy of lies, deception, silence, denial of communist crimes and secrecy conspire against Croatia’s well-being and against the future for which rivers of Croatian patriotic blood was spilled during the 1990’s Homeland War. Without full disclosure of the crimes and criminals, without lustration and/or disabling former communists and their followers from power in Croatia, the political future of the country as a functional democracy remains uncertain and unlikely. Indeed, without a lustration the region within which Croatia sits remains politically unstable and widespread corruption is set to continue undermining livelihoods of the people and peace.

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This year, this month of May, marked the 76th Anniversary of the end of World War Two. At the end of World War II, despite the victory of the Allies in Europe and the official defeat of fascism, the secret genocidal killing continued as organised groups of Yugoslav communist Partisans, starting on 15th May 1945 at Bleiburg Field in Austria under the very noses of the British forces administering that part of Europe after the War, sought and pursued revenge against those who fought for and wanted an Independent Croatia. Most of the refugees reaching Bleiburg left the Croatian capital of Zagreb on 7 May 1945. A column of people approximately 70 kilometres long was reported by Radio London to be moving north to Austria from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, people scrambling to leave Yugoslavia, “overtaken by a fear of the Partisan units” (Portmann, M. [2004], Communist Retaliation and Persecution on Yugoslav Territory During and After World War II [1943-1950], pp 130-134).

Josip Broz Tito’s communist Yugoslavia killing machine started the brutal genocide there at Bleiburg and continued under the pretence of repatriation, forced repatriation to communist Yugoslavia of those who were fleeing it. This genocidal mass murder of Croatian patriots continued as the so-called death marches, the Way of the Cross, in that forced repatriation process as well as communist purges continued for several years to come. The British records indicate that up to 700,000 unarmed men, women and children were massacred by the Yugoslav Partisans, forcibly repatriated and their bodies dumped, as we now know, in over 1700 mass graves.

Croatian children were among those who fled communist Yugoslavia in May 1945 and were brutally massacred

On Bleiburg Field in southern Austria, the great deception began on 15 May 1945. According to records of the British Foreign Office Headquarters 5th Corps, 200,000 Croatian and Slovenian soldiers and military personnel, as well as 500,000 civilians headed to Bleiburg at the end of World War II seeking asylum, expecting that the British would abide by the principles of the Geneva Conventions and provide them sanctuary to protect them from Partisan reprisals. They expected deadly reprisals from the communist Yugoslavia regime because, refusing to endure the oppression and brutalities against Croatians within any Yugoslavia, they fought for an independent Croatia during WWII.  

Historical writings after WWII show that the great majority of the people the British forced back from Austria, Bleiburg, were simple peasants. They had no murders on their hands. They had not been Croatian Ustashas or Slovenian ‘Home Guards’. Their only fear was of communism and the reputation of the communists. The British forces pursued an unforgivable act by sending these refugees back to communist Yugoslavia knowing they were sending them to certain and brutal death.

Croatian civilians, children, women, unarmed soldiers fleeing communist Yugoslavia in May 1945

According to the testimony of a Partisan soldiers: the orders came from the staff of the 11th Dalmatian Brigade that the most reliable communists, both officers and soldiers were to be chosen for a confidential task… They (communists) created a special unit of them, which amounted to seventy people. Every day between 10 to 20 trains arrived at the station full of people. They didn’t receive any food or water. The overwhelming majority of them were collapsing. Most were men. A smaller proportion were women who were raped in the pit before they were shot… Two hundred boys from 14 to 16 years of age. Everyone was killed. All killed. In two pits. There were 30,000 to 40,000 killed in 8 days… The Partisans went to Lake Bled on vacation on Sundays after eight days of killing, then came back for another round. From Kočevja alone we sent over twenty freight cars of clothes. Daily we sent two to three freight cars of personal effects of the dead (Tolstoy, N. [1986], The minister and the massacres, London: Century Hutchinson Ltd., pp. 198-200). Yugoslav communists created many extermination squads that operated at local levels across Yugoslavia but the relatively greatest number of them operated within Croatia for a number of years, even within the WWII Jasenovac camp which Tito’s communists kept open until 1952 where, according to new and emerging research of historical archives and facts, extermination of anti-communist Croats occurred constantly.   

Croatian refugees fleeing communist Yugoslavia in May 1945

Killing civilians and prisoners of war after the Second World War is the greatest massacre of unarmed people of all times in that territory. Compared to Europe, the Yugoslav communist massacres after the Second World War are probably in size and ferocity second only to the Stalinist purges and the Great Famine in the Ukraine. Because of its relatively short time, the number of murdered innocent people, the way of execution and massiveness, the so-called Bleiburg Massacres (that encompass murders at Bleiburg and the years that followed) is an event that can be compared to the greatest crimes of communism and National Socialism. Communist Yugoslavia’s leader Josip Broz Tito, under whose command the State-ordered purges and massacres of Croats occurred, stands listed among the World’s top 10 mass murderers of the Twentieth century.

And yet today’s powers that be in Croatia fail to legislate a ban on communist Yugoslavia symbols, insignia and celebrations! They barely pay a lip service to the commemoration of Bleiburg massacres and the State-owned or controlled mainstream media barely give it a mention. It would be a reflection of absolute truth that this appalling situation in remembering the victims of the communist Yugoslavia totalitarian regime exists because those who committed these crimes are and were among families of many today’s persons who hold positions of power or some form of control.   

All of the crimes committed in Tito’s name from 1940 to 1980 were repeated again during the 1990’s war when Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina sought to secede from communist Yugoslavia. The message of the Serb-led Ovčara massacre at the outskirts of Vukovar, the message of ethnic cleansing of Croats from two thirds of Croatian sovereign territory, the message of thousands of rapes, tortures and murders committed by Serbs and Yugoslav forces, is identical to the message of the horrible massacres of more than 1700 mass graves and pits filled with the remains of brutally massacred Croats and Slovenes.  Communist Yugoslavia hid these crimes, and it was only in early 1990’s when Croatia became an independent state, even if it was still in the midst of brutal Serb aggression and war of defence, that historical archives opened up and research into truth began without fear of communist reprisals.

Today, in Croatia, the communist legacy of lies, deception, silence, denial of communist crimes and secrecy conspire against Croatia’s well-being and against the future for which rivers of Croatian patriotic blood was spilled during the 1990’s Homeland War. Without full disclosure of the crimes and criminals, without lustration and/or disabling former communists and their followers from power in Croatia, the political future of the country as a functional democracy remains uncertain and unlikely. Indeed, without a lustration the region within which Croatia sits remains politically unstable and widespread corruption is set to continue undermining livelihoods of the people and peace. Ina Vukic

Zeljko Glasnovic MP and “The Lion in Winter”

Zeljko Glasnovic MP in Croatian Parliament 13 Feb 2020
Delivery of anti-corruption speech
Photo: Screenshot

When I watched the live video broadcast of Croatian Parliament sitting on last Thursday, 13 February 2020, while the Parliamentary representative for Croatians living abroad (for the diaspora), retired General Zeljko Glasnovic, it was his usually ardent presentation of the perilous woes that continue afflicting and stifling progress of democracy and, indeed, a society that provides opportunities for all its citizens to better themselves without the fear of nepotism, bribery and political allegiances. Without corruption as mainstay! His speech was about the urgent need to stamp out corruption, which, as he emphasised, even “SOA (Security and Intelligence Agency in Croatia) says represents the biggest danger for the Croatian state”. But, as he said, nothing is being done to actually deal with this debilitating issue; nothing is being done to call the “red directors of companies” (former communists) to account, who have destroyed multitudes of public companies and amassed personal wealth in the process, alarmingly impoverishing Croatia’s public wealth. That is why “there is no money for Croatian Defence Council/HVO, no money for Kindergartens and other critical matters…because at least 30 billion kunas (4.1 billion Euro) are stolen every year and taken out of the country. The left and right wing of the Party (meaning Communist party) are to blame for this. Life is good for them, but why not start with them, when we talk of the provenance of property legislation … what’s with the dossiers of former UDBa (Communist Yugoslavia Secret Police) operatives, some of them sit today in this Parliament…and when I talk about that it is prohibited on HTV (Croatia’s public TV channel), instead we have to watch shows that serve as confessional for those Khmers Rouge and those where their children rule like emperors…that in fact is censorship and we don’t come across discussions about that…What’s with the stolen properties by the Reds  … until academic and other lustration are implemented we will not get far…but that is a taboo topic for HTV.”

Now comes the crunch of the day!

The real and distressing marker for the relatively widespread and repugnant animosity against Croatians living outside Croatia, or émigrés, which is constantly fed to the public by those in Croatia who had profited living under the Communist Yugoslavia regime and circumvented or refused to fight for an independent Croatia in 1990’s once 94% of voters voted at 1991 referendum to secede from Yugoslavia.

Croatian Peasant Party representative in parliament, Zeljko Lenart (otherwise a “torchbearer” for the likes of  Kreso Beljak who says that communists did not kill enough Croats in their purges during and after WWII) stood up protesting against Glasnovic, saying: “…Glasnovic insults me as a parliamentary representative and I would like to say that in my family no one was member of the Party but I will also tell you that we did not flee to Canada and hide in Canada for 30 years like you and now you hold moral sermons and continue insulting …”. Glasnovic then approached Lenart, protesting to Lenart’s ugly provocation, calling him names (monkey, nit/louse…) saying: “I did not flee, you chased us out …”. And that in fact is the truth. Retired general Glasnovic was only 8 years old when in 1962 his family was forced to emigrate to Canada; their sizeable properties stolen by communists, family persecuted, denied the right to work, and members imprisoned as political prisoners in Communist Yugoslavia. His story of emigration is the story of hundreds of thousands of Croats who emigrated from Yugoslavia. But Glasnovic (like many others) returned to Croatia in 1991 to voluntarily join the Croatian defence forces (after having served in Canadian Army for 5 years and then French Foreign Legion/The Gulf War) to defend Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from Yugoslav/Serb aggression once Croatians voted overwhelmingly to secede from communism and become an independent Croatian state. Croatian communities in the diaspora joined the fight for freedom once those living in Croatia had overwhelmingly voted to secede from Yugoslavia. This was their God-given and moral duty.

Croatian Parliament 13 Feb 2020
Zeljko Lenart MP (L), Zeljko Glasnovic MP (C), Miro Bulj MP (R)
Photo: Screenshot

Lenart, to my opinion rightly called “a nit” from political perspective that affects a nation struggling to implement that for which it fought and gave blood, has the gall to provoke Glasnovic with such malicious lies! Lenart has proven beyond any doubt that Croatia has indeed much to attend to if it is to decommunise and become a fair-for-all country. Instead of supporting Glasnovic’s speech and standing behind the need to stamp out corruption, Lenart attacks with provocation the man who advocates blanket and decisive actions to rid Croatia of corruption – the cancer that has all but chomped away the opportunities for many to make a decent living in Croatia. Croatia finds itself periled by mass exodus of young people, who have and are leaving the country in droves in order to earn a decent living abroad. Even if it were true that no one from Lenart’s family was in the communist party during the times of Yugoslavia, one thing stands out like a sore thumb: they must have sucked-up to or tolerated/supported communists for personal gain. The fact that he stands behind Kreso Beljak, instead of being abhorred by the murders of innocent Croats by the communists, for which Beljak says there weren’t enough killed, is an unshakeable indication that the latter must have been the case for Lenart’s family.

Croatian media had in its usual biased manner reported this incident from Croatian Parliament on Thursday 13 February as an incident where Glasnovic called Lenart by seemingly derogatory names! There was nothing about the real and critical issues for Croatia Glasnovic was talking about to which Lenart responded with provocation, and none that I could come across sought Glasnovic’s comments afterwards. All this is very symptomatic of the dire problems Croatia has and about which Glasnovic talks loudly: the absolute need to stamp out corruption and delve into the provenance of the wealth amassed through corruption and theft by many former communists, many of whom, or their descendants, are currently in positions of power in the country.

What became painfully obvious from Lenart’s malicious provocations is that it serves as proof of  a vicious war going on in Croatia for the survival without repercussions of those who have illegally and through corruption amassed wealth by being in power, and/or who have participated in or shut their eyes to the mass murders of innocent Croatian people by communists during and after WWII. The battle for power between the former communists and most of their like-minded descendants and those who actually and with much sacrifice fought for an independent and democratic Croatia during 1990’s has reached the stage where possibilities do not exclude a justifiably brutal reckoning for the political trajectory Croatia will take.

The ugly resistance by communist (or former Yugoslavia) sympathisers to delve into real combat against corruption reminds one, in a way, of the political backdrop in James Goldman’s 1960’s acclaimed play “The Lion in Winter”, an intended political comedy about politics in the Middle Ages that transforms contemporary battles for political survival into often tragic consequences for a nation.  Questions about the battle for succession and the demands of leadership have never felt more pertinent to me. What makes the messages from The Lion in Winter feel so immediate and fresh is how it bridges great political posturing and intense personal and domestic intrigue. The play is overwhelmingly about the battle over succession. After Croatia’s Homeland War ended completely in 1998 and after Franjo Tudjman’s death in 1999, those who placed their own life at independence’s disposal (the war veterans) and those who worked alongside them ensuring political lobby and financial backing as well as providing combatants to defend Croatia from aggression (the Croats in the diaspora) were the natural successors who would see Croatia rid itself of communism and its corrupt ways. Those who would preserve Croatia as independent and develop it into a full democracy. But, after Tudjman’s death the former communists would do anything to ensure that Tudjman’s and Homeland War’s natural successors were run into the ground and even pronounced the Homeland War as a criminal enterprise. It took 12 years for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague to acquit in 2012 Croatian Generals of “Joint Criminal Enterprise” (politically-driven) indictments.

The Lion in Winter” political agendas translated into today’s Croatia, would see the plot where with the fate of their ideal country (communist Yugoslavia) at stake – forever – there are many former communists and their followers or descendants who are willing to survive by any means necessary and thus prevent the ultimate demise of the communist regime, threads of which still perilously remain ingrained in Croatia’s public administration and society. In these times of heightened attacks against those who fought and fight against communism, questions about the battle for succession and the demands of leadership have never felt more pertinent for Croatia.Those who are among the natural successors, including retired General Zeljko Glasnovic, continue to have a fight on their hands that needs to bring about the real positive consequence and values of the Homeland War come “rain, hail or shine”: to decommunise the country and usher in real or functional democracy to the streets (not the one on paper only) by any means necessary. Many in the political arena, though, fail miserably at recognising leadership, support it actively; it’s the old woe of egomania palpable in many. Regretful as this is, it is not insurmountable. This is the time to draw the battle against communism to a close and bring the combatants against it together to a conclusion. Will Croatian combatants against corruption know how to do that, how to join forces against the enemy, once again? Ina Vukic

 

 

 

The Haunting Reminders of Depravity of Communist Crimes

Huda Pit Communist Crimes mass grave Transfer of victims' remains ceremony Photo source: dnevno.hr

Huda Pit
Communist Crimes mass grave
Transfer of victims’ remains ceremony
Photo source: dnevno.hr

 

It was May, 1945. The Second World War was over, and the real agony of civilian refugees and defeated soldiers (independence and freedom from Kingdom of Yugoslavia fighters in particular) from the territories of former Yugoslavia had just begun. The agony of the defeated Croatian soldiers and civilians is known as the Way of the Cross. Instead of the humanitarian protection they should have received, Yugoslav partisans, communists, gave them death sentences. Endless columns of refugees from Yugoslavia walked towards the West, seeking refuge and instead were sent back and sent on the road of no return – Huda Pit was one of the places where that road finished for thousands innocent victims.
Post WWII Communist Yugoslavia was literally littered with mass graves, particularly Croatia and Slovenia – the remains cluttered the underground in deafening silence for decades as Yugoslavia’s communists kept a tight lid over the mass graves and their depraved crime sprees, filled with hatred for and revenge against anyone disagreeing with communism or actively seeking freedom and independence. Up till now some 624 mass graves of communist crimes have been discovered in Slovenia with multitudes of thousands of tortured and slaughtered Croats, not only POW soldiers, but also old men and women, women with children.

It was in 2009 when the authorities first opened the Huda Jama (Pit) mine, some 80 Km northeast of Ljubljana, one of several hundreds of mass graves dotted around the former Yugoslavia filled with remains of victims of communist crimes, mass slaughter. ‘It is one of the most shocking things you could see in your life,’ said at the time Barbara Brezigar, Slovenian State Prosecutor, reacting to the terrible sight she had seen of the victims’ remains.

Inside Huda Pit mass grave (photo taken 2009)

Inside Huda Pit mass grave (photo taken 2009)

Huda Pit is believed to be one of the largest multiple mass graves of members of defeated armies and civilians killed towards the end of WWII by Communist authorities and intelligence services. There are sealed-off disused mine shafts within the old mine forming mass graves experts believe could contain over several thousands of victims, Slovenians and mainly Croats, women and children among them.

Many gathered at Huda Pit on 3 October 2016 to witness the transferal from mass grave of remains of victims of communist crimes of former Yugoslavia Photo: dnevno.hr

Many gathered at Huda Pit
on 3 October 2016 to witness
the transferal from mass grave of remains
of victims of communist crimes of former Yugoslavia
Photo: dnevno.hr

 

Transferal of the remains of the first 800 victims unearthed to a memorial centre at Dobrava, west of Ljubljana, had begun on Monday 3 October 2016. Bishop Stanislav Lipovsek of Celje, Slovenia, led the funeral and carrying-of-remains ceremony in the presence of the Slovenian president Barut Pahor and hundreds of people many of whom are still wondering whether the remains of their parent, grandparent, brother, sister … were among those carried out from this pit on Monday – all they know is that communists slaughtered and buried them, somewhere in the area. The transfer of the victims’ remains is likely to be completed by 27 October when Slovenian President Borut Pahor is due to attend a commemoration at the Maribor cemetery. The burial of remains at Dobrava (Tezno) will enable later burials into individual family graves once identification of the victims is completed; there will also be a common graveyard prepared for some of these victims whose identity may not be confirmed.
Communist crimes’ apologists will go on telling the world that all these people deserved to die because they were Nazi-collaborators. They will not tell the world that these people were executed without a trial, without a shred of evidence against them when it comes to Nazi-collaboration. The slaughter was a part of a political agenda where communism had to clear the way – without significant opposition to it – for its rule and regime in Yugoslavia. Communists acted as judge, jury and executioner to those with differing political views.

Slovenian President Borut Pahor with Bishop Stanislav Lipovsek at Huda Pit Monday 3 October 2016 Photo: STA

Slovenian President Borut Pahor
with Bishop Stanislav Lipovsek
at Huda Pit Monday 3 October 2016
Photo: STA

President Borut Pahor has stated on Monday that the reconciliation of the formerly opposed sides and coming to terms with the past is a continuous process, and that the act of reburial could be a historic turning point. “Reconciliation is possible only once we are ready to forgive and to admit the truth even if it is painful, hard and incriminating,” Pahor said during the ceremony, attended by victims’ relatives.

President Pahor gave an exclusive statement to the “Bujica” TV program team at the Huda Pit site on Monday:
This was necessary to do in order to deal with the past and for a better understanding of the future. I know that there are those who will say that it is more important to solve the current problems and that the history cannot assist with this, but I do not think like that! The fact that we have today begun solving one of the most dramatic events in our history from the middle of the last century, can also help the future of our nations. The job is not done yet. I wish that in the near future we will able to say that all our dead are buried in peace, and that our children and grandchildren will only then be able to devote themselves to other problems. At the last informal meeting I had with your President, Mrs. Grabar – Kitarovic, we talked about Huda Pit and all the other places where the victims require a dignified burial and reverence paid, piety shown for the deceased who were killed without trial, after the Second World War in Slovenia. We agreed that we need as two of the Presidents, act in such a way that will send a message of reconciliation regardless of the past the future peace. This will be done during coming months.”

Bishop Lipovsek blessing the caskets with victims' remains Monday 3 October 2016 Huda Pit Slovenia Photo: STA

Bishop Lipovsek blessing the caskets with victims’ remains
Monday 3 October 2016 Huda Pit Slovenia
Photo: STA

There is reported evidence that some of the victims were buried alive to die in agony. Nothing, nothing justifies or lessens these crimes and it is an appalling state of affairs to have seen that no Croatian government or presidential representatives took the effort of being at Huda Pit on Monday. No excuses possible there as far as I am concerned, not even the fact that the new government has not been formed yet. Surely, the fact that to date there are over 900 locations of either mass or individual graves of victims of communist crimes in Croatia (let alone Slovenia and the other states of former Yugoslavia) where Croatian victims are buried is motive and justification enough to dedicate a whole government department to deal with this terrible injustice towards innocent people in Croatia – not just an office. This is the part of Croatian history that has not yet been dealt with properly and it must. Slovenian president Pahor just stated at Huda Pit on Monday that which has often been said in my articles and that is a good sign for justice to come.  Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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