ARCHBISHOP ALOJZIJE STEPINAC IN THE DOCK

This year of 2021 the Advent begins on Sunday 28 November, and we prepare for the birth of Jesus. And in that preparation for the birth of Jesus I trust and pray that The Holy Father Pope Francis will reconsider the role he maintains the Serb Orthodox Church has in the canonisation of Croatia’s WWII Archbishop of Zagreb, Alojzije Stepinac, Blessed Alojzije Stepinac since October 1998 when Saint John Paul II, then Pope, beatified him.

With this article I step back in the time of October 1946 when the Yugoslav communists (among whom was an overwhelming number of Orthodox Serbs) wrongfully convicted the Archbishop, wrongfully treating him, wrongfully accusing and convicting him and others so that the communist regime may do what it pleased and that sick “pleasure” was in mass killings of Croats who fought for independence as well as women and children and the elderly.

Hence, I have here transcribed an article from the renowned newspaper The Scotsman, drawn to my attention by Dr Esther Gitman, the historian who has performed thorough research about Stepinac’s many activities in rescuing Jews, Serbs and others from sure death in the whirlwind of political and aggressive madness of WWII. 

The Scotsman (1921-1950); Oct 18, 1946; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Scotsman

pg. 4

“An Archbishop in the dock

Trial of the Yugoslav Primate

By Patrick Maitland

“To reaffirm faith in the fundamental human rights, in the dignity and value of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women,” the United Nations signed the San Francisco Charter.

The above is the phrase in the Charter Preamble, to which Mr Dean Acheson, Acting U.S. Secretary of State, called attention last weekend with reference to the Zagreb trial of Monsignor Stepinac, Archbishop of Zagreb and Catholic Primate of Yugoslavia, on seven counts. “It is the civil liberties part of the thing which causes us concern,” he said.

The Archbishop was sentenced to sixteen years hard labour on charges of collaboration with the puppet Croat regime of the Ustashi leader, Pavelic, during the war, of responsibility for compelling Serbs, members of the Orthodox Church, to become Roman Catholics; of becoming Chaplain-General to the puppet Croat Army; of conspiring with Dr Matchek, the (now-exiled) leader of the Croat Peasants’ Party, with General Mihailovitch and others; and of issuing a pastoral letter on the eve of the Yugoslav  general elections last year, “falsely depicting the state of affairs in Yugoslavia and encouraging the Ustashi and other traitors to commit further crimes.”

 Mr Dean Acheson’s comment said the worrying aspects raised questions “as to whether the trial has any implications looking toward impairment of freedom of religion and of worship”; and he pointed out that, for example, the Supreme Court of the United States had always set aside as illegal all trials “in Courtrooms dominated by feelings adverse to the defendant by demonstrations of prejudice.”

No transcript of the trial has yet reached Britain, and one is eagerly awaited, for not only has the judgment provoked the first excommunication of the head of a State in more than a century, but this is the first occasion within recent years when an Archbishop has been brought before a lay court and so condemned on what amount of political charges.

The trial comes at a time when the world is looking for implementation of the Four Freedoms which are enshrined in the United Nations Charter, and when the Nuremberg Tribunal has set an all-time model for the dispensation of justice without prejudice.

TENDENTIOUS REPORTS

In the absence of a full report on the trial, it is worth noticing that agency reports from the Courtroom, and the reports issued by Tanjug, the Yugoslav official news agency, paint a fairly consistent picture. The Associated Press reported that a number of witnesses desired by the defence were never called. And the Archiepiscopal defendant was only one of several. It was a collective trial after the manner of that of General Mihailovitch whereat, also, the calling of a number of witnesses desired by the defence was ruled out of order.

The Tanjug reports would have brought an instant writ for contempt if they had been published in Great Britain during a British trial. Here are some excerpts: The defendants’ “witnesses mostly discredited the intention of defence counsel by the contradictory testimony … they were nonplussed when the Public Prosecutor proved” &c.: “Stepinac declared he did not want to answer questions put to him, in the first place in connection with the proofs of his criminal activities”; of a reference by the defence to alleged forced conversions: “Here Stepinac is using sophistry and verbalism … He did not speak of his Ustashi activity.”

Another day Tanjug incorporated into its report the phrases: “Despite all the proofs piled up against him” and made this reference to the “Caritas” organisation: “although it had been proved that the society was a lair of robbery.” Again: “The Judge dealt with Stepinac’s anti-national activities just before the liberation.”

No matter how grave the charges, the mere incorporation of these and kindred phrases in the report of the official news agency tends to bear out the implication of Mr Dean Acheson’s suspicion that the atmosphere in which the trial was conducted was hostile to the defendant.

ARCHBISHOP’S SPEECH

Mgr. Stepinac’s speech in defence has not been published abroad, save a few short phrases. It is fair to conclude that the foreign correspondents covering the trial, especially American correspondents writing for a Press which must cater for a considerable Catholic readership, tried to report this. The obvious conclusion is that the censor interfered. The Vatican organ. Osservatore Romano, however, clearly obtained at least some passages of the Archbishop’s speech, for it was able on October 5 to reproduce the following passage: –

“You speak of liberty and of religion in Yugoslavia and you say there is more liberty in the country than ever before. I reply that a great number of priests have been killed. You could have arrested them, but you have not the right to put them to death. The people of the country will never forget this. There has never been a greater scandal. Not a single bishop, not a single priest in the country knows in the morning if he will see the light of the next dawn. You ask for our loyalty and we ourselves are obliged to ask you to respect the least of our rights.”

That passage, coupled with those cited above from Tanjug account, give some idea of the tense atmosphere of the whole proceedings and how the trial was principally a test of political loyalties. While the trial was in progress the Press was forbidden to refer to any of Mgr. Stepinac’s deeds during the enemy occupation, when he is known to have given asylum to refugees of every race and creed who approached him. Among them were members of the present Government. Jews, Orthodox Serbs, Moslems, were repeatedly saved from death by his direct intervention. This much is known.

But the extent of the Archbishop’s personal popularity in Croatia can possibly be gauged from the fact that throughout the trial, the Zagreb churches were packed with people praying for him, and on October 2 the civil authorities banned assemblies of more than five persons outside any church. The ban is reminiscent of those attempted by Pavelich regime when, during the occupation, the Archbishop’s fiery denunciation of Nazi tyranny drew such crowds that he was compelled to preach from outside his Cathedral instead of within it.

“FORCED CONVERSIONS” 

Of the charges laid against the Archbishop, several are unsavoury. The most disagreeable was clearly the allegation that he had encouraged, or at the very least consented to, “forced conversions”. That many thousands of Orthodox Serbs living in Croatia were, in fact, compelled to join the Roman Catholic Church there is virtually bo doubt. But there is doubt about the nature of the force used. And a revealing letter reached the writer a few weeks ago from a Zagreb Serb giving a version hitherto unknown in this country. According to this source, the Pavelich regime issued decrees instituting certain civil disabilities for Orthodox, Jews and Protestants. The decrees constituted an inducement to the careless to abandon their church allegiance and join the Catholic Church with menial reservations.

This letter explains that the Orthodox Serbs of Croatia are actually deeply grateful to the Archbishop because he revised the formularies to which it is customary for a convert to assent in such a way as to make this nominal transfer of loyalty easier and less humiliating to those making the change from motives of security. To such folk, this writer asserts, the Catholic Archbishop was a hero and a protector.

This letter is not mentioned in any attempt to whittle away the evil of the practices which went on in outlying parts. In many parts of Bosnia the procedure was horrible and degrading. But the Archbishops defence has not been heard by the outside world, and this surprising tribute has been written from the centre of the crimes with which he was charged. It nay be worth adding that the Archbishop has been personally known to the writer over a period of years, and has always appeared a man of such deep sincerity that the charge of approving forced conversions would, on the face of it, seem monstrous.

A significant feature of the trial was the white heat of the propaganda with which it was surrounded. The writings and public statements made during the Mihailovitch trial are pale by comparison. The campaign was inaugurated by Marshal Tito hikself in a speech st Split on July 27. “All traces of an artificially produced dissatisfaction (with the regime) emanate from under the cassock,” he said. “To-day, sundry saints and miracles have come to the fore. Now what miracles do we need? We shall create these miracles ourselves by our own labour. Our people are no longer so stupid as to be duped by tales about saints and miracles. Let the saints remain in their churches where they belong.”

POLITICAL MOTIVE    

But the motive again and again appears to be political. For in another speech a few days later Marshal Tito revealed to this matter: “There are in Croatia, Serbia, and in other parts of the country priests among those men who are spreading discord among the people … Only a small part of the Catholic clergy goes with the people to-day; a far greater part goes against the people … They have again begun to spread hatred among Serbs and Croats.”

Reports which have lately reached London through uncensored channels – there is now a fairly steady flow of visitors moving back and forth – bring out a particular feature of the present situation. On the one hand, what the Serbs call the “repovi” – the “tails” of Yugoslavia – are generally speaking satisfied with the new regime. There is little talk of discontent in Slovenia, which is in a fair way to acquiring fresh territory in Venezia Giulia, and which is hopefully looking forward to the presentation of a formal claim to incorporate the Klagenfurt area of Carinthia.

The Montenegrins have little to complain of for they played a leading part in the National Liberation Movement from the start and have in general received a heavy share of the good jobs. The Macedonians in the South have won local home rule, and at least till lately enjoyed considerable freedom to defy the orders of Belgrade. Bosnia and Herzegovina have been flattered, likewise, with a degree of home rule. But from throughout Serbia and Croatia, which together must form the kernel of the newly federated State, constant if inarticulate opposition is reported.

It is purely a surmise, but available evidence and many straws in the wind suggest it, that the overall purpose of the Zagreb trial was to whip up Serb hatred against Croats – the cardinal weakness of the pre-war kingdom which enabled the dictatorship to prolong its tyrannical power.

Ina Vukic

Communist Yugoslavia Secret Services Archives Needed To Fight Against Organised Crime

The report on cooperation in the fight against organised crime in the Western Balkans was adopted by the Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday 26 October 2021 by 60 votes in favour, 4 against and 6 abstentions.  In the report Members of the European Parliament urged governments in the region to significantly increase their efforts to go forward with reforms in the rule of law and the fight against corruption and organised crime. The report says that the Western Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Serbia) are countries of origin, destination, and transit for human trafficking, and they serve as a transit corridor for migrants and refugees and as a location for money laundering and firearms trafficking.

There is a lack of genuine political will in fighting the organised crime in these countries and MEPs want Western Balkan countries to address fully the shortcomings of their respective criminal-justice systems, including the length of legal proceedings. While not located within the Western Balkans for the matters addressed in this report, Croatia as a country that used to be a part of communist Yugoslavia until 1991 still has a great deal to answer for and fight against when it comes to organised crime and corruption.

The report said that Members of the European Parliament insisted that “fighting organised crime and advancing towards European Union integration are mutually reinforcing processes and call for an accelerated integration process.” The EU should, according to its Members of Parliament, support these efforts through financial assistance and practical cooperation. Call me a pessimist and a cynic in this if you like, but judging from the fact that organised crime and corruption are rooted in these societies of former communist regimes or similar political and social realities, the EU money dished out to root out corruption will be largely swallowed up by the same corruption, to feed itself, unless political power landscapes are changed in those countries or the EU actually controls every euro given and does not give money away.

As a member state of former Yugoslavia Croatia has also inherited widespread corruption as organised crimes from it. As such, Croatia could play a significant role in its input into fighting organised crime in those countries of Western Balkans that have their eye on being members of an extended EU member country because it possesses “inside knowledge” of organised crime. But given the alarming level of organised corruption still plaguing Croatia one must doubt as to whether much will change in Western Balkans on account of Croatia’s input. To be effective in this Croatia would need to shed most of its public administration heads and replaced them with those who have no links whatsoever with the corrupt echelons. Or, assisting the EU in this role from Croatia should be persons who would not qualify for lustration if lustration was to occur as well as not be a descendant, child, or grandchild of those who would qualify to be lustrated whether now living or not. It sounds like a big ask but, in essence, it is not because Croatia has quite a number of those who would qualify and who had during the life of former Yugoslavia either lived there or lived abroad as part of the diaspora.

Croatia’s criminal-justice system is certainly there where Western Balkans’ is and it needs a complete overhaul, however, we are not likely to see this occur while those aligned with the former communist Yugoslavia mental set control all aspects of public administration including judiciary.

The Report says that the main factors that make Western Balkans societies vulnerable, are the lack of employment opportunities, corruption, disinformation, elements of state capture, inequality, and foreign interference from non-democratic regimes such as Russia and China. Croatia, even after 30 years of seceding from Yugoslavia still has these problems plaguing its progress and everyday life.

Links between organised crime, politics and businesses existed before the break-up of Yugoslavia and have continued since the end of the conflicts of the 1990s, and Members of the European Parliament “condemn the apparent lack of will of the responsible authorities in the region to open the former Yugoslav archives and for files to be returned to governments if they want them.”

The report welcomes the conclusion of cooperation agreements between Eurojust and the governments of Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia, as well as the authorisation to open negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina. MEPs urge the Council to authorise as soon as possible the opening of negotiations for a similar agreement with Kosovo.

It is of great interest to monitor how the recommendation from the Report that says that “Responsible authorities should open the former Yugoslav archives” will fare. Knowing the utterly corrupt persons that held the corrupt and criminal Yugoslavia together, influence of whom poisons many a responsible authority in former Yugoslavia countries, including Croatia, the opening of all archives is likely to be stalled for generations to come. Unless of course there comes a time when the political landscape changes and new generations, unpolluted by communist Yugoslavia nostalgia, come to be the authority that makes such decisions.

Suffice to say that there are multitudes of politicians in power or those holding authority in Croatia for whom the opening of Yugoslav archives would reveal alignment with UDBA (communist secret services in former Yugoslavia) communist purges operations and grand thefts for personal gain; an abominable, criminal past that included persecution and assassinations of anti-communist Croats and stealing public wealth for personal gains. Further problem for the opening of Yugoslav archives rests in the fact that when former Yugoslavia crumbled apart Serbia retained much of the archival material pertaining to the country’s federal depository held in its capital city Belgrade. Serbia did not do the decent thing and returned to all the former states of Yugoslavia their rightful archives – Serbia kept them all and it is not a member state of the European Union. Those archives would undoubtedly also reveal, among many other facts, the nasty historical fabrications Serbia has engaged in against its neighbouring countries, particularly Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.     

Communist Yugoslavia Secret Service files (UDBa) hide everything that the lustrated or those prosecuted for endangering human freedoms, political and civil rights, destroying families would be accused or members of the service lustrated or those prosecuted for endangering human freedoms, political and civil rights, destroying families and various blackmails and interfering in political and economic life and installing in political parties would be charged with. But Croatia’s criminal justice serves largely those it needs to protect from such lustration or prosecution. Secret service files hide everything unknown that would shed light on various historical and political deceptions, montages and that it would produce grounds for a different understanding of the 20th century history that is based on facts rather than communist or Serb fabrications.

Plights by several Croatian politicians in the opposition to the HDZ or SDP governments since year 2000 for the opening of accessibility to all Yugoslav archives, wherever on the territory of former Yugoslavia they may be held, have been numerous. Lobbying for the opening of the archives has been quite rich. But all to no avail! Will EU succeed where others have failed!?  The answer to the question “what is in those secret services files” appears with more urgency as Yugoslav secret services files continue to remain a “taboo topic” despite the landscape where, on surface, all the government officials and leaders swear to their personal commitment towards the truth! EU has been asking for access to those archives for over a decade and this Report regarding fighting organised crime on Western Balkans is just another notch in the string of asking.

The Report’s other significant recommendation is that political and administrative links to organised crime must be eradicated. This all sounds very great, just like the European Parliament’s declaration condemning all Totalitarian Regimes from the past some 12 years ago (2009). But the European Union authorities still to this day fail to punish or impose consequences upon Croatia for encouraging symbols of communist Yugoslavia totalitarian and murderous regime to thrive on the streets of Croatia that lost rivers of blood in the 1990’s while trying to secede from communist Yugoslavia. All this tells me that the European Parliament and the EU authorities have no real political will to contribute effectively to the achievement of recommendations from the Report on cooperation in the fight against organised crime in Western Balkans. I, for one, would love to see Yugoslav secret services archives open for all to access and study and show the truth but somehow, I fret that in my lifetime I will not see that without a miracle of political change. There appear to be too many individuals with power at some level within the countries’ machinery involved with organised crime in both Croatia and in the Western Balkans and only a miracle can rid the people of that scourge. The miracle, of course, can be shaped at the next general elections. Ina Vukic

Antifascist Struggle Day Equals Communist Mass Murders and Purges In Croatia

Top right: portrayal of Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia by renowned Australia-based artist Charles Billich (Top Centre Andrej Plenkovic PM, Centre middle Zoran Milanovic, President of Croatia, Left communist monument in Brezovica, bottom left and right two out of 1700 mass graves of Croatian victims of communist crimes in so far discovered/ Huda Pit and Butina Pit)

On 22 June Croatian government and those that call themselves antifascists spent that unfortunate public holiday celebrating-come-commemorating the so-called Antifascist Struggle Day at Brezovica forest (near the city of Sisak) where former communists now antifascists say the First Partisan resistance movement unit was formed 80 years ago. That’s the resistance movement against Croatian fight for independence even though they will try to convince you that their fight and resistance were against German and Italian occupation of Croatia during World War Two. This detail is crucial in the ongoing political crisis in Croatia because the former communists/Partisans keep telling everyone that they liberated Croatia in May 1945 but what really occurred is that they fought for, stood for, and managed to keep Croatia within Yugoslavia, which, of course, a great majority of Croatian people did not want!

So, we can safely say that this Brezovica related event in history marks the start of communist seizure of power through resistance to independence of Croatia from Yugoslavia, which led to the establishment of the oppressive communist regime in Yugoslavia in 1945.   

The Brezovica event on 22 June 2021, sponsored and attended by the cream of Croatia’s government led by Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic as well as Croatia’s President Zoran Milanovic, is an occasion when Croatian people, in essence, should remember the tsunami of oppression, tyranny, political persecution, mass murder and purges that the communist regime unleashed after World War Two ended. The majority of Croatian people remember those painful and dark misfortunes on that day, but they do not attend Brezovica on 22 June.  Those that do attend it shamelessly glorify the communist ideology, which murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent people and after which mass murders its followers, in order to gloss over their mass crimes, started calling their communist ideology – an antifascist one!

The enormous scale of communist crimes and atrocities in Croatia (in former Yugoslavia) has been documented by historians and others especially after 1991, when Croatia set itself on a path of independence from communist Yugoslavia. Over 1,700 mass graves of victims of communist crimes have been unearthed, 1000 of those in Croatia alone. New mass graves keep showing-up all the time, evidencing the horrendous depravity and brutality with which those “antifascists” murdered innocent people as well as those who fought for an independent Croatia, for a liberated from Yugoslavia Croatia.  

One would think that after its victories in the 1990’s Homeland War, after defending itself from the brutal Serb and Yugoslav aggression, after thousands of lost lives for independence, after immeasurable destruction, losses and ethnic cleansing of Croats from their homes, the lesson from the horrendous history of communist crimes against Croats in former Yugoslavia would be learned. This horrendous history was, after all, a part of the reason why on 25 June 1991, after the May referendum at which 94% of Croatian citizens voted to secede from communist Yugoslavia, the Croatian Parliament voted to commence proceedings of secession from Yugoslavia and its other republics. The injustices of communism were not limited to mass murder alone as those patriots who wanted an independent Croatia who were fortunate enough to survive were subjected to severe oppression, including violations of freedom by political imprisonment, loss of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, loss of property rights, and loss of right to work…

A cruel irony seems to be playing out in Croatia: It defended itself from the communist onslaught in 1990’s, it was victorious – only to be hunted down by the same enemy of the people and democracy, the communist mindset, incessantly with increasing force on Croatia’s own terrain!

Last year (2020) in Brezovica on 22 June, Croatia’s Prime Minister said that “the victory over fascism was a prerequisite for building a democratic Europe.” Which is undisputable. But Plenkovic omitted to say that communists were not part of that democratic Europe. Indeed, communist Yugoslavia between 1945 and 1991 was far from democracy and freedom.

This year (2021) in Bezovica on 22 June, Croatia’s Prime Minister talked about the terrible communist crimes after World War Two against Croats (who fought for and wanted freedom and independence of Croatia) but still, straight-faced, celebrates that post-war communist regime (he and those like him call antifascism for some decades now) and Partisans and their symbols and insignia! He too has the gall to claim that communists/antifascists fought in WWII for Croatia’s independence.

They did not!

This year Plenkovic paid a lip service to communist (antifascist) crimes committed post WWII against Croats who fought for true independence of Croatia during WWII.

“Also, regardless of the mentioned merits of Croatian partisans for the establishment of the Federal State of Croatia – which prevented the unitarian organization of Yugoslavia in which Croatia would not have its own borders – it is time to look at these turbulent times in all their complexity.

I am thinking primarily of the post-war crimes of the Yugoslav Army after the extradition near Bleiburg, i.e. the mass executions of disarmed soldiers and civilians along the Way of the Cross, especially in Slovenia and Croatia, which is still traumatic for many families.” said Plenkovic on 22 June 2021 in Brezovica.

Just as the crimes of the Ustashas and Jasenovac cannot be justified by anything, nothing can justify the mass execution of defeated forces and often innocent people, which not only cast a shadow over the anti-fascist movement but also deepened the pernicious divisions in post-war Croatia. Post-war purges of political dissidents such as the persecution of Blessed Cardinal Stepinac, although he was one of the bravest pastors of the Catholic Church in Europe, who in his sermons publicly opposed the persecution of Serbs and Jews and saved many from death. Here, in the end, I am thinking of the establishment of the totalitarian regime of Yugoslavia that betrayed the ideals of many Croatian anti-fascists, which unfortunately happened again after the breaking of the Croatian Spring (1971),” Plenkovic continued.  

And so we must ask: Why does the Prime Minister of Croatia and his government continue celebrating the communist regime whose ideology was the turning wheel of more crimes and murders than WWII Ustashi regime ever saw!? Why does he say that the communist regime with its crimes betrayed the ideals of many anti-fascists and fails to do the same for those who fought for Croatian independence during WWII? Why does he stand behind those who want the greeting “Za dom Spremni” (For Home Ready) banned in Croatia and does not stand behind those who want the Red Five-pointed Star and Partisan/Communist Yugoslavia greetings banned!?

The answer to the above questions is obvious through his actions and the actions of his government as well as the actions of the country’s president and they, at every corner, defend the communist (their antifascist) ideology instead of coming to terms with its darkness just like the 94% of voters did way back in 1991. This is not likely to happen though, they are not likely to accept the darkness of the ideology they and their families have stood by and participated in and benefitted from for decades, and living standards and democratic processes in Croatia will, hence, keep deteriorating.

 Hence, they should be thrown out at the next elections! For that to occur, to throw the bastards out at next elections, the silent majority that abstains from voting at elections (because, with the experience of the former communist Yugoslavia power machine, they think they cannot change anything) must turn up at polling stations. The alternative, i.e. street unrests while they can eventually reap results in essence – would just not be pretty.

Unfortunately, with the mainstream media being so biased against the government’s opposition (patriotic parties, right-wing parties) effective opposition parties are unable to pursue what they need and must do: to be able to put out their message and mobilise voters. Croatia continues to experience the same issues that it did under former communist come socialist Yugoslavia – opposition to government cannot function as it should because it is not allowed to spread its message on state-owned media or in the corrupt mainstream media. Suppression of the voice of reason, truth and justice continues in Croatia. It is no accident that virtually every communist regime suppressed opposition parties soon after coming to power and that is exactly what has been happening in Croatia. It is fortunate, though, that we live in the so-called digital era and communications, including media, are not limited to what governments own or bribe. But we do live in an era where new ways of outsmarting and outperforming the mainstream media owned or controlled by the government is possible. Great resources for that are needed, of course.

The better we learn the painful and horrendous lessons of the history of post-World War Two communism (in Croatia and in terms of former communism in Yugoslavia now dubbed antifascism), the more likely it is that we can avoid any repetition of its horrors in Croatia.  Ina Vukic    

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