Croatia: Transition from Communism Must Accommodate Prosecution of Communist Crimes

“If some groups of victims are considered less worthy, it means that the racist ideology still lives on,” said Rosetta Katz, a Holocaust survivor in Parliament of Germany on Friday 27 January 2023, International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day, which marked the first time, after many years of lobbying, German parliament has focused in annual Holocaust memorial commemorations on people persecuted and killed for their LGBTQ or gender identity by the National Socialism regime.

It’s a pity that such great words are not understood or accepted to apply globally to victims of communism as well.  In view of the terrifying list of crimes committed in the name of promoting geopolitical supremacy by all warring sides during World War II and after it, every condemnation of crimes committed in the name of the theory of class struggle and the principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat seems justified. It would appear to be equally justified to put the perpetrators of communist crimes on trial before the international community, as it was the case with the terrible crimes of National Socialism, i.e., Holocaust.

But once one says that and means it, respecting all victims of crimes, the wretched and derogatory label of Historical Revisionism is slapped onto one to intimidate and bully those engaging in research efforts to bring out the facts of history and equal respect all victims of all totalitarian regimes. One class of victims, hence, in the eyes of the world, becomes worthier than the other. For lasting peace and prosperity in the world the crimes in the name of communism should be assessed as crimes against humanity in the same way Nazi crimes were assessed by the Nuremberg Tribunal. Legal provisions should be introduced that would enable courts of law to judge and sentence perpetrators of Communist crimes and to compensate victims of Communism. But victims of communism largely remain anonymous, faceless, without personal photographs, just piles of skulls and rotting bones in pits, mass graves or piled up into walls of remembrance.

History is undeniably part of an individual and collective awareness and creates identity. It serves to affirm one’s own norms and values, to legitimise rule and claims to leadership, and to develop perspectives for the future. But when that history such as Croatia’s World War II one has been written and kept on life support by the communists with evident help of political aims among the Allies who won the War and when that history has been proven over and over again that it contains significant fabrications in order to justify the communist Yugoslavia enormous crimes against its political opponents then it is our obligation to pursue research and revision of that unjust written history.

“Croatia has to face the culture of remembering that is different from what we would like. We are Europeans now. We have integrated firmly into Europe, which is wonderful news, but mentally we have not entered it. You with the Ustashiade simply cannot go further than Brezice (a small town in Slovenia near the Croatian border). That doesn’t work in Europe. Liberal Europe does not accept Croatia like this,” concluded historian and former communist Yugoslavia fan Ivo Goldstein concluded in his address for the Croatian media the day leading up to the Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day 2023.

Evidently, whether of Jewish heritage, like Goldstein, or not, former communists and those who follow in their mental footsteps today in Croatia fail miserably to acknowledge and accept with open arms the liberal Europe they boast of belonging to. It’s a double standard nobody should tolerate. The Liberal Europe Goldstein refers to had ever since 2009 condemned by parliamentary declaration both the Communist and the Fascist regimes (to which the WWII Ustashe regime is arguably erroneously allocated) because of the totalitarian cloth they wrapped themselves in. For comparison’s sake the communist Yugoslavia murdered or exterminated many more innocent people than what the Ustashe regime did. But, it seems, to people like Goldstein, the term Holocaust holds much more weight for human condemnation and repugnance than what communist crimes do. This is, of course, a catastrophe for humanity as it classifies victims not by their suffering but by their ethnicity, religion, or political leanings. And so, in the case of WWII and post-WWII Croatia, victims of communist purges and exterminations appear insignificant to people like Goldstein, but victims of the Holocaust are significant.

The crux of the matter is that the Ustashe regime fought for independence of Croatia from any Yugoslav conglomerate and the communists fought for a third Yugoslavia (the first two being kingdoms of Yugoslavia ruled by the Serbian oppressive and dictatorial Monarchy). And Yugoslav communists or their indoctrinated descendants evidently loathe the fact that Croats fought for self-determination and independence during WWII. Hence, a clear reason why they keep spinning the lie that they freed or liberated Croatia in 1945! Liberated from whom? Its own people who wanted independence and fought for that in the most difficult of circumstances in the history of the 20th century? In fact, they forced the Croatian people who wanted independence back to a Yugoslavia that took revenge against the Croatian patriots and murdered so many that Yugoslavia’s Josip Broz Tito has been placed on the list of “Top” 15 mass murderers of political opponents of the 20th Century.

Furthermore, it is evident that the more the facts of WWII Croatian history are uncovered and the more these facts show that the history of WWII Croatia written by the communists of Yugoslavia and their allies (including in relation to the numbers of Jews and others perished under the blanket of the Holocaust) who won the War was alarmingly falsified and fabricated, obviously for political dominance reasons and for social engineering communist Yugoslavia practiced, the more we experience people like Goldstein regurgitating the worn-out and intentionally intimidating term of the so-called historical revisionism. Historical revisionism should have positive connotations because it seeks to either prove as correct the historical records published so far or to disprove them as blatant politically motivated lies. Perhaps Goldstein and those like him in these matters harbour a sense of dread and fear that “their” history books will end up in trash bins or in bon fires across the world!?

There must be a politically “strong” reason why Ivo Goldstein, when he was the Ambassador of Croatia to France 2012-2017, kept a portrait of former communist Yugoslavia President Josip Broz Tito on his Embassy office walls.

Did this practice mean that Goldstein did not and does not accept the independence of Croatia from communist Yugoslavia for which terrible price in Croatian blood was paid amidst Yugoslav Army and Serb aggression in early 1990’s? While there were complaints to the Croatian government about this photo of Tito on Croatia’s Embassy walls from Croats living in France the best the communist bent government of Croatia could reply was that there was no law in Croatia forbidding the hanging of pictures on the wall! The eradication of succinct lines of communist mindset and practice in official Croatia has a long way to go yet.

The opening of State Archives after Croatia seceded from communist Yugoslavia in 1991 is indeed bearing fruits that have the potential of exonerating to a great extent the WWII Independent State of Croatia of many crimes and victim numbers that have been peddled to the world against it for over seventy years!  The more the credible research into facts and archival documents of WWII Croatia reveals a completely different truth, the actual truth, to the one peddled for decades, Goldstein and those like him seem to waffle on increasingly about anti-Semitism in Croatia, as well as accusations of relativising Ustasha crimes through historical revisionism, i.e., through archival research! These kinds of public outbursts are akin to attempts to intimidate and suppress the factual truth from coming out.

Leading contemporary historians and researches into WWII Croatia, including factual victim numbers and rescue of the Jews, have been several and it is worthwhile mentioning some in this article whose work has attracted much public interest even if the Croatian government  remains largely and unfairly uninterested in such facts of history that have been denied for decades : Esther Gitman, Roman Leljak, Blanka Matkovic, Stipo Pilic, and Igor Vukic,  

“Ustasheism and historical revisionism have been coming at us from all sides for the past eight years,” Goldstein said in his public statement last week, failing miserably to reveal the indisputable outcomes of historical research that has been conducted in the past decade that more and more place his historical writings under severely unsafe historical records which cannot be trusted by those pursuing justice for all victims of state war and post-war crimes. It would appear apparent that he has personal interests in speaking against research or revision of written history and Ustashe regime of WWII Croatia. He has announced a new book he is writing on Historical Revisionism, and one must wonder how much of historical and general tripe, concoctions of biased personal views and biased content that book will have? If one is to judge from his past pro-communist agenda authoring works then Croatians, in readiness, need to keep their fingers pressed against the toilet flush button.  No historian on Croatia, on the need to revise historical records through factual research, who fails to condemn the communist regime after 94% of voters condemned it in 1991 Croatian referendum, who fails the victims of communist crimes while tagging the victims of Ustashe crimes with precious worth, is worth the embrace by the public as a truth-bearer or authority on history. Such a book Goldstein is announcing seems nothing more to me, and I believe to multitudes, than an opportunistic gimmick to “earn a buck” and a promotion as worthwhile and “to them glorious” the murderous communist regime of Yugoslavia, which European Union has included in its condemnations many years ago as criminal.

The constant distortion of history by keeping the fabricated historical facts alive, by devaluing historical research through labelling it as historical revisionism with relativisation does nothing for the fact that the radical left (especially communists and former communists still holding a candle for communism) just like the radical right also must come to terms with its own history in Croatia and elsewhere. Without such confrontation no lasting peace or absolute respect of human rights can be achieved.

What to remember and how to remember is, in Croatia as in many countries, a very topical and urgent question that keeps both historians and politicians occupied. It does not only concern schoolbooks and history teaching, but also the use of public space to represent history whether in the form of monuments, museums, mainstream media or otherwise. Often decisions of this kind lead to fierce political debates and they are certainly not limited to aesthetic values of monuments of past regimes, even the criminal ones. And the truth or revealing it without condemnation suffers. The politics of the past keeps haunting Croatia and without the removal of World War II touted communist contribution for an independent Croatia from the historical narrative preamble to the Constitution the hundreds of thousands of victims of communist crimes have no chance for deserved and due justice.  Ina Vukic

Croatian Six – Judicial Inquiry Into Terror Convictions 43 Years On

It’s been 43 years 8 months and 21 days since the Croatian Six men were convicted of attempts of terrorist acts in Sydney, Australia and Justice Victor Maxwell who delivered the prison sentences was most likely completely unaware that before him was a masterpiece of lies and machinations of communist Yugoslavia operations against Croatians who rejected communism and migrated to Australia after World War Two. Perhaps Justice Maxwell felt that things were not “right” but was in no position to rule otherwise? May that too will become apparent and clear one day.

 It is now clear more than ever that the communist Yugoslavia in its rampage against Croatians who rejected communism and Yugoslavia did include not only purges by mass murders but also framing Croats for terrorist activities around the world due to which Croatians living in West had suffered awful consequences to their good name particularly during the 1960’s and 1970’s while Josip Broz Tito was alive and head of communist Yugoslavia. And so finally, after several attempts since 1982 to achieve a judicial inquiry in this greatest miscarriage of justice in the history of Australia we are looking at the best hope for justice for the Croatian Six men sent to jail on attempted terrorism charges with fabricated evidence and lies that came from a Serbian citizen infiltrating the Croatian community in Sydney as a patriotic Croat! The Croatian Six had always maintained their innocence of the crimes they were charged with eventually imprisoned for ten years each before being released early in 1991.

Finally, the New South Wales Supreme Court in Sydney Australia has 30 August 2022 ordered a judicial inquiry into the 1981 convictions of the so-called “Croatian Six” over an alleged conspiracy to bomb four businesses in Sydney and cut the city’s water supply, amid grave concerns the men were framed by a Yugoslav spy. This historic decision for a judicial inquiry was delivered by Justice Robertson Wright ordered a judicial inquiry into the 41-year-old convictions (and just over 43 years since the indictment) of Maksimilian Bebic, Mile Nekic, Vjekoslav Brajkovic, Anton Zvirotic, Ilija Kokotovic and Joseph Kokotovic, who were sentenced in February of 1981 to a maximum of 15 years’ prison each in relation to the alleged terrorist plot.

As I wrote in my previous posts here these four men of Croatian descent and birth who migrated to Australia and until their shocking arrest for alleged plot to bomb two travel agencies in Sydney, a Serbian club, the Elizabethan Theatre in the Sydney suburb of Newtown, and Sydney water supply pipes connected to the Warragamba Dam on the outskirts of Sydney, as well as other offences of stealing or possessing explosives in Lithgow and Sydney in 1979 all of these six men were decent, honest people and hard workers and it took the communist Yugoslavia dark secret services forces, using a Serb national as a spy to turn them into monsters the world loathed. In that loathing all Croatians living in Australia particularly, who fought for an independent Croatia during World War Two or who simply fled Yugoslavia because they did not tolerate the oppressive, murderous communist regime.  

In paragraph 48 of his determination for a judicial inquiry dated 30 August 2022 Justice Wright said that “a significant amount of other material in the declassified ASIO documents forcefully suggests that, at least, Mr Virkez (Serb communist Yugoslavia operative) was an informer to the Yugoslav Consulate-General for a number of months prior to the arrest of the Croatian Six in February 1979, if not a Yugoslav agent or agent provocateur”.

On Page 31, paragraph 72, of Justice Wrights 39 August 2022 determination that a judicial inquiry is to be held stated: “Having regard to all of the material, which was provided by the applicants and the Crown and which included summaries of or extracts from the evidence at trial, it appeared to me, and I was comfortably satisfied, that there are a number of doubts or questions as to parts of the evidence in the case and the guilt of the Croatian Six,”

and in paragraph 73 Justice Wright continues: “First, it appeared to me that there is a doubt, or at least a question, as to whether the evidence of Mr Virkez  at trial was deliberately false in a number of respects including when he gave evidence about the alleged bombing conspiracy, when he denied spying on the Croatians, and when he denied giving evidence at the behest of anyone connected with the Police Special Branch or the Yugoslav government. I was satisfied that this doubt or question arose having regard to the information identified above, including but not limited to the information contained in: the declassified ASIO documentation; the book Reasonable Doubt: Spies, Police and the Croatian Six; Mr (Hamish) McDonald’s interview with Professor (John) Schindler; the book The Secret Cold War, The Official History of ASIO, 1975 – 1989; the e-book Framed; Mr Virkez’s interview with Mr (Chris) Masters, parts of which were included the Four Corners program; the ABC podcasts including Mr Cunliffe’s information; and, the documents and accounts concerning Mr Cavanagh’s evidence.”

In paragraph 77 Justice Wright of his determination for a judicial inquiry said “… it also appeared that there is a doubt, or at least a question, as to the guilt of the Croatian Six as a result the real possibility that the Yugoslav Intelligence Service used Mr Virkez as an agent provocateur or informer, to cause false information to be given to the NSW Police, and possibly ASIO, as to the existence of a bombing conspiracy involving the Croatian Six, in order to discredit Croatians in Australia. Mr Virkez’s information led to the arrest and charging of the Croatian Six and their eventual conviction for conspiracy to bomb and possession of explosives. The principal evidence relied upon to secure those convictions was the testimony of Mr Virkez and the evidence of police officers of confessions said to have been made by Croatian Six and explosives said to have been found at their premises. As I have explained, there is, in my view, a substantial doubt or question as to the veracity and reliability of Mr Virkez’s evidence and as to the police evidence. Mr Master’s interview with Mr Virkez and the information from Professor Schindler also indicated that the Croatian Six may not have been part of the alleged conspiracy to bomb. This and other material concerning the alleged finding of explosives at the premises of five of the Croatian Six also led me to conclude that there is a doubt or question about the convictions relating to the explosives offences. Furthermore, on Mr Bebic’s case, the explosives found had been stolen by Mr Virkez and were said by Mr Virkez to be for opal mining. Consequently, there appeared to me to be a doubt or question as to whether the Croatian Six were guilty of any the offences for which they were convicted.”

All six Croatian men vehemently and always denied they had made confessions NSW Police sought to attribute to them, Wright said, and four of the six alleged they had been severely beaten by police. They had always maintained their innocence of the crimes they were charged with and convicted for.

Justice Wright in his determination of 30 August acknowledges previous attempts to secure a judicial inquiry into the 1981 criminal convictions against the Croatian Six and says in paragraph 80 “While the previous applications were unsuccessful, it does not appear to me that they were entirely lacking in merit, although the present application is made considerably stronger than the earlier applications by the availability of the declassified ASIO documents and the further research and information contained in the publications and podcasts since 2012…”

We now patiently wait to receive the results of the judicial inquiry, which could take several months, but as Ellis Peters, The Potters Field, The 17th Chronicle of Brother Cadfael,  wrote: “It may well be, said Cadfael, that our justice sees as in a mirror image, left where right should be, evil reflected as good, good as evil, your angel as her devil. But God’s justice, if it makes no haste, makes no mistakes.” Ina Vukic

Croatia: The Real Jasenovac

The need to resist falsifications of history in historical science of former Yugoslavia should and must be recognised by the Croatian government as a national problem and priority. The Croatian governments since year 2000 have failed consistently and, evidently purposefully, to recognise publicly and in their national strategy the need for corrective measures that would address historical misinformation and falsified Croatian history from World War Two. This need for corrective measures arose and persists given that falsifications have cruelly blackened the reputation of Croatian people worldwide and people and communities suffer because of that. It is a widely accepted fact that misinformation occurs when people hold incorrect factual beliefs and do so confidently. The problem, first conceptualised by the American political scientist James H. Kuklinski and colleagues in 2000, plagues political systems and is exceedingly difficult to correct. Over time, scholars have elaborated on the psychological origins of political misinformation and although there is an extensive body of research on how to correct misinformation, this literature is less coherent in its recommendations but, overall, scholarly research on political misinformation illustrates the many challenges inherent in representative democracy. And Croatia is no exception – relatively too many members of parliament are either former communists of Yugoslavia or their children who all, one may safely assume, either participated in falsification of Croatian WWII history or supported the falsifications.

It is regrettable that the Croatian government has not supported, nor does it support those whose research has taken them and takes them to uncovering the historical truth and correcting the misinformation sowed by Yugoslav communists and their supporters for decades throughout the world, often making the life of Croatian expats living in the diaspora a nightmare fuelled by lies, defamation and degradation spilling down from the communist agenda that relied on misinformation for its survival.  Whether, therefore, Croatian powers that be hold that lying is a virtue, just as communists did, is a question that may not be difficult to answer even though the answer shocks every decent and truth-loving human being. The fact that no Croatian government since year 2000 has in any shape or form supported the research undertaken to uncover the terribly defiled truth of WWII Jasenovac camp, such as the most credible research including the ones carried out and completed by Stipo Pilic and Blanka Matkovic or Igor Vukic … speaks volumes of how very profoundly the Croatian governments have been and are saturated with communist ideology, mental set and cover-up of communist crimes including those perpetrated at Jasenovac camp post WWII by communist Yugoslavia. Perhaps a future government, different from the Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ or Social Democratic Party/SDP ones Croatia has had so far will have the courage to assist the passage of historical truth to the surface. 

When people firmly hold beliefs that happen to be wrong, as is the case due to falsified history of WWII Croatia making it about victims of the Ustashi regime, grotesquely inflating the numbers of people that perished, instead of making it about the fight for freedom from oppressive and dictatorial, harsh Serb-led Kingdom of Yugoslavia,  efforts to correct the misinformation will be and is met with resistance and this resistance is frequently labelled as “revisionism” in the negative sense even though revisionism is a positive concept as it seeks to correct the wrongs. The truth will out though, eventually, thanks to dedicated historians some of whom I have mentioned above. The myth and lies about Jasenovac will fall one day under the overwhelming weight of truth.

The latest addition to the above-mentioned research and pursuits of truth about WWII Jasenovac is a new book titled “The real Jasenovac” (Stvarni Jasenovac), written by Tomislav Vukovic, with the subtitle “documents and discussions”. The book brings more than 150 documents, photos, and facsimiles, many of them for the first time in public! The book was published by the Society for the Research of the Triple Jasenovac Camp, and it strongly adds to the increasing body of scientific and truth research works on the World War Two (WWII) concentration camp in Jasenovac, Croatia, aiming to correct the misinformation about the camp (and WWII Croatia) served to the world by Yugoslav communists and their friends.

From the back cover of the book we find that “the documents, photographs and reprints presented in this book show the real Jasenovac as opposed to the ideologised and exaggerated depiction of the camp as it prevailed in the period of communist socialist Yugoslavia. Such a distorted view has survived in some circles to this day in the independent Republic of Croatia. The author of the book is Tomislav Vukovic, a long-time journalist and the editor of the Zagreb Voice of the Council and a contributor to a number of other Croatian public media did what every historian dealing with this topic should do: he went to the Croatian State Archives and looked for documents about Jasenovac that were discussed in public. He found them, read them and photographed. On this basis, a newspaper feature in Glas Koncila was created, which was also the basis for this book. In addition to the documents, there are also a number of reviews and polemics with the advocates of the falsified and mythologised depiction of the camp in Jasenovac. The book is therefore a valuable contribution to the discussion of history the camp and the effort to present it in a realistic form…”

The book ‘Real Jasenovac’, authored by Tomislav Vukovic, is a continuation of Igor Vukic’s contribution to the elucidation of the ‘Jasenovac myth’. What particularly impresses is that the book was printed with financial assistance not from the Government or government agency but from the Canadian-based Croatian expat benefactor Dr. Ivan Hrvoic.

The book is full of valuable documents, photographs and sources of literature that can be checked and independently verified. The author of the book is well acquainted with the subject he is writing about, so the book is worth reading.

“WWII Independent State of Croatia/NDH and Jasenovac mythology”, which the world has been faced with for decades since WWII, are based on the fictional and malicious stories of how Croatia’s Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac personally slaughtered Serbian children in Jasenovac. Or that every fourth victim of ‘Jasenovac’ was a child, or that the Ustashas competed with each other who would kill more internees during the day, and many other ‘hunting stories’ designed and concocted to hide communist crimes.

Reading Vukovic’s book (based on documents) one learns that the Ustashas were not as the ‘anti-fascist’ (communist) literature describes them, and that the camps in ‘Jasenovac’ were treated better than in camps on other continents. Packages regularly arrived at the camp, work was done, crafts were studied, cultural events and sports competitions were held, etc.

Certainly, life in the camp was not a personal choice, and everyone who survived the camp or lost someone in it is rightfully outraged. But due to historical untruths, outright lies and fabrications, it is essential to rise above the personal level and look at the picture in a wider context.

In line of this Dr Ivica Tijardovic, Croatian scientist and publicist, put forth into the public domain recently that there are several questions that need to be answered when writing about or discussing the WWII Jasenovac camp.

First question: How many lives did “Jasenovac” save? In other words, those survivors would not have been so lucky in any other place.

Second question: How many criminals and how many political prisoners were imprisoned in the camp? It is known that many lawbreakers were taken to ‘Jasenovac’ to serve out their prison sentences.

Third question: How many inmates were released after serving their sentence or after being pardoned? The figures in this context from Vukovic’s book are astonishing.

Fourth question: How many inmates went to work in Germany or in real concentration camps somewhere in the north of Europe? It is also an interesting question worth investigating.

Fifth question: How many camp inmates were killed by the Ustasha, and how many by the partisans, i.e., ‘anti-fascists’ (Yugoslav communists)? Given that the Jasenovac camp, as we know it, remained operational after the arrival of the partisans in 1945; more research on this topic is more than welcome. Namely, in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, there were about eighty concentration camps with about 200 thousand internees a few years after the end of the Second World War.

Sixth question: Why was Croatian WWII history falsified, and there is still an unsuccessful attempt to hide the truth with which a growing number of people from Croatia and the world are becoming more and more familiar?

The only unequivocal answer to that question is the following. Given that the crimes against Croats after the end of the Second World War were so monstrous, with the ‘myth of Jasenovac’, thanks to the communist dictatorship, terrible atrocity in the long history of Croats was successfully hidden. The truth will out with all thanks to the several historians who pursue research, often at personal peril and cost, with view to present the truth of WWII Croatia history to the world and the financial and moral support they receive from the Croatian diaspora. Ina Vukic

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