Croatia: Yugoslav Communists Lying About Croatian Independence Movements

Zoran Milanovic (L) Stjepan Mesic (R) Photos: Screenshots

You simply know that your country’s president is a devastating and appalling waste of space when it comes to honouring the people’s wish for independence from communist Yugoslavia and your people’s fight for that independence by the persons he chooses to represent him at various events, who are equally a waste of space. During the past week Croatia’s President Zoran Milanovic sent as his representative the former President of Croatia, the former President of communist Yugoslavia (Stjepan Mesic) to the commemoration of victims of the Danica camp in WWII Croatia (where communists and Serbs say 5,000 people perished but any history written by Yugoslav communists cannot be trusted, even though only one victim is one too many)! That message says a great deal. Milanovic knows that Stjepan Mesic is the leader of the pack when it comes to liars and that he was a war profiteer, scavenging away into his own pockets bundles of funds donated by the Croatian diaspora for humanitarian needs of victims of the 1990’s Serb aggression against Croatia and for defence of Croatia. Part of evidence for the latter has certainly surfaced in a civil court case in the city of Split between 2017 – 2019.

But despite the evidence and testimonies presented in that court that strongly indicate that Stjepan Mesic did engage in criminal activities of war-profiteering, none of that evidence or indications seem to have been referred to or directed to the office of public prosecutor by the court in Split. But then again, Croatia is no full democracy. It still protects communist thieves and liars that define Croatia on basis of corruption.

And so, Mesic said at Danica site last week: “I hope that the Ustasha movement will stop one day, and then it will stop if we remember these events which are facts, which cannot be changed, because in history only what happened, happened.

Then he went on to say: “The state government should first of all stop financing those who falsify history, such as those who claim that the Jasenovac camp continued to function after 1945: This is a notorious lie.

Had Mesic, forgetful of his own previous statements, not here labeled himself as a notorious liar, one might be tempted to believe him but it is terribly difficult to believe him when he, himself, is one of those leading people of former Yugoslavia who revealed to the world that Jasenovac camp did remain open after WWII ended and in there innocent Croatian people who fought for independent Croatia were murdered and exterminated at the hands of Yugoslav communists. Now he wants people who promote that fact to be cut off from financial help! He obviously forgets what he says from day to day. Not because of some problem with Alzheimer’s disease but because he is a person that will say and do anything in order to promote the criminal regime of former communist Yugoslavia, or, if circumstance so demands – “suck up” to the other political side for personal gain.

In 2017, Stjepan Mesic stated publicly: “Don’t be fooled, Jasenovac worked two years after the war. There are many Croats buried deep there. We will now ask for those graves to be dug up, and you will see that they are Home Guards and Ustashas. We will have to bring a world commission to see that. Tito knew that it was a forgery … in order to get bigger reparations. He was never in Jasenovac,” said Mesic, who called Jasenovac a labor camp, not a concentration camp as others have painted it.

If Croatia’s Stjepan Mesic, President Zoran Milanovic, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic – none of whom ever fought for Croatian independence and democracy but in one way or another fought against it, and still do, ensuring they hold well-paid positions they do not deserve nor have the skills to perform at successfully – think and say that Ustasha movement still exists in Croatia and its diaspora, they would in certain ways be right! Of course, the WWII Ustasha movement as per organised political force does not exist and it hasn’t existed for many decades as a formal movement since it was disbanded soon after WWII ended. What does exist today is the independence of Croatia ideology and “movement”, which, of course has, in that sense, close similarities to what the Ustasha movement was for Croatia during WWII. Independence from Yugoslavia. Mesic knows that and that is what bothers him as it does all his communist Yugoslavia “pals”! He has always worked towards running down and crushing the glory of Croatian people’s victory during 1990’s in succeeding to free themselves from the chains of communist Yugoslavia. When he became President in 2000, one of his first moves was to retire some 20 Generals of the Croatian Army and Croatian Defence Council – to cut them down, to cut down as much as he could the independence movement even though Croatia had already won its independence. But it still had a job to finish during peace time: to lustrate Croatia of communists in power.

Ah, someone might say: but WWII Ustasha movement had Racial laws in place and many victims were generated because of it! It did! But so did almost all other countries throughout the world at one stage or another. Just check the facts of 20th century history, and before, you will find even today the remnants of such utterly depraved laws and practices; Camps, Reservations, stolen land, stolen generations, mass graves, “Whites Only”, …  The world is full of destitution and dead bodies because of it. The important thing in my mind is that every era bought its own way of achieving national goals, and many were not pretty nor justifiable, but in the historical context they fit into the order things were done by all our ancestors. Not that this justifies historical deeds that ruined lives, but it does serve as a platform upon which we learn lessons of a better future.

What is happening in Croatia, though, is that former communist operatives are using examples of historical crimes, alleged crimes and fabricated crimes to cover up and bury the glorious efforts for independence and self-determination.  They will not succeed if people at large have anything to do with it. WWII Croatia and its Ustasha movement fought for independence from Yugoslavia and in that the occupying German forces were a propping hand, however critical of that we may be; in 1990’s Croatian people fought for independence from Yugoslavia on their own. And that is the beauty of it. That is what communists like Stjepan Mesic are trying hard to dishonour. They will not succeed. The word Ustasha in essence means “rise against oppression”. Stjepan Mesic doesn’t like that. Well, tough luck for that decrepit man of “politics”, the movement of rising against the very idea of Yugoslavia is here to stay. Even in peace time. Why? Because it was oppression itself, it was criminal and murderous, it was garbage! It only served best those in Communist Party positions, the rest just lived day by day or fled out of that existential misery. It is to be hoped that Croatia will not end up like Yugoslavia even if there are no serious signs of lustration on the horizon yet to stop such misfortune. Lustrating former communists in authority or high positions within former Yugoslavia would, of course, be the ideal answer to all the problems afflicting Croatia negatively on the path of full democracy. Failing that there is always the heart that cries out for independence and truth to rely upon. Ina Vukic

Esther Gitman – Rebuttal To Serb Accusations Against Blessed Alojzije Stepinac

Blessed Alojzije Stepinac (L) Dr Esther Gitman (R) Darko Tanaskovic (Top C) Porfirije Peric (Bottom C)

The new head of the Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Peric, like his predecessors, is not wasting time when it comes to attacking Blessed Alojzije Stepinac by introducing new, evidently maliciously twisted spanners into the canonisation works within the Catholic Church. Pope Francis, it would seem, is, when it comes to the canonisation of Blessed Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, pursuing a road that abandons the declarations of the Catholic Church’s Pope John Paull II, now Saint, regarding Alojzije Stepinac and is looking to compromise the will and the truth of Catholics of Croatia in order to achieve some kind of unity with the Serbian Orthodox Church that has for decades persistently and politically used lies and half-truths to blacken Croatia and its Archbishop and Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac. A few days ago Darko Tanaskovic, a member of the first mixed commission of Catholic and Orthodox representatives regarding the canonisation of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, said for Sputnik news in Serbia, among other things, that Patriarch Peric has some Stepinac letters for which he says that Stepinac should not be made a saint for Christian community! And this evidently personal interpretation and defilement of historical truth, for obviously political reasons, comes from a head of the church, Serbian Orthodox Church, that still to this day refuse to accept and acknowledge the leading role it played in Serbia becoming one of the first WWII a Judernfrei (Jew free) states in Europe!

New York based Dr Esther Gitman, a reputable historian specialising in Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac and the rescue and survival of Jews and others in the WWII Croatia has sent me her written response and reaction, a rebuttal to the above public statements made by Darko Tanaskovic and Patriarch Peric. Here is what Dr Gitman wrote.(Ina Vukic)  

Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac in the Historical Context by Esther Gitman, April 2021:

In face of one of the vilest attacks against Blessed Stepinac that is taking place only days after the new Serbian Bishop Porfirije Perić was chosen to become the successor to the Patriarch Irinej. To make his presence known, influential, and acknowledged as a true Serbian religious leader, he chose, as his predecessors did, to attack the memory of Dr. Alojzije Viktor Stepinac, the former Archbishop, and Cardinal of Zagreb who had passed away in Krasić, a place of his birth, of his house arrest, on February 10, 1960, 61 years ago. 

The question one may ask: Why Porfirije (Patriarch), so soon after his being promoted to succeed Patriarch Irinej, has elected, as one of his first tasks, to attack the memory of Alojzije Stepinac, with a hope to nullify the elevation of Stepinac to sainthood. The issue of Stepinac’s canonization was raised when Dr. Darko Tanasković, one of the participants, in the joint meeting in the Vatican, between Serbs and Croats re Stepinac’s conduct during the war years. Dr. Darko Tanaskovic, one of the Serbian participants,  reported to Sputnik- news that Stepinac’s chances of being elevated to sainthood are diminishing! Tanasković asserts that Pope Francis will not bring a resolution in favor of the Croatian side which would splinter the Christian world even further.

Tanasković, and I assume other Serbs, argues that it is absolutely clear that Stepinac supported the Ustashe. Tanasković further argues that Stepinac was a problematic figure and thus under no circumstances and under no criteria he can become a saint! He explains that it was important for the Serbian side to prove this point! He goes on to state that it is not clear yet to what measure Stepinac was a criminal and that he must have been aware of all the crimes that were committed against Serbs, Roma, and Jews, and although at some instances he was helpful, he never raised the issue of cleansing the Serbs via conversions to Catholicism.

After the war, Stepinac was indicted under the laws, on crimes against the people and the State, approved on August I5, 1945, and amended July 9, 1946. These laws were entirely the product of the new popular democracy in the process of formation in Yugoslavia. They constituted a complete break from the traditional past and rejected outright the usual procedures and guarantees contained in previous legislation. Moreover, the new laws, conceived along strictly political and communist lines, were drafted and put into effect after the alleged crimes committed by the Archbishop. In this way, the prelate was arrested and tried ex post facto, for offenses that were not criminal in the code in existence at the time of their supposed commission. 

The objective of this response is to rebut the accusations made against by Archbishop Stepinac for more than seven decades. And reached a crescendo with the rise to power of Bishop Porfirije Perić, I will begin with three memorable quotes uttered by Stepinac during his trial. He stated: 

“You accuse me of being an enemy of the government of the state and of the people of Yugoslavia. Please tell me what was my government in the year 1941? Was it that of the instigator Simović in Belgrade – the traitor, as you call him – the one in London, or was it You in the forests or the one in Zagreb? …We were not able to ignore the government here, even if it was a Ustaša regime.  Only since May 8, 1945, have you had the right to interrogate me and to hold me responsible. In summary, he declared…My conscience is clear and I’m not going to say any more about it. You can bring a thousand proofs, but you will never be able to prove a single crime against me! His motto was:  

“Only one race really exists and that is the Divine race. Its birth certificate is found in the book of Genesis. All of them without one exception, whether they belong to the race of Gypsies or to another, whether they Are Negroes or civilized Europeans, whether they are detested Jews or proud Aryans, have the same right to say ‘our Father who Art in Heaven.”   

The second quote: Hundreds of times during the trial I have been called “the defendant Stepinac.“ There is no one so naïve as not to know that with the defendant Stepinac” here on the bench sits the Archbishop of Zagreb, the Metropolitan and the head of the Catholic Church in Yugoslavia. 

The final quote: I was not persona grata to either the Germans or the Ustashe; I was not an Ustasha nor did I take their oath as did some of the officials of this court whom I see here. 

The question posed is one of the most delicate and serious nature, connected not only with modern warfare but with the entire problem of post-war Europe. Collaborationism has been used as a term of reprobation with incredible largesse. In most of the western European countries that knew the tragedy of occupation by Nazi Germany and their collaborators, hundreds of citizens have been accused, indicted, and sometimes imprisoned for collaboration, whose acts were very different from those of out and out collaborators or participants in the governments imposed by the invaders. What really constitutes collaboration in the case of the ordinary inhabitants is not always easily proved. Many post-war lawyers, including Ivo Politeo, Stepinac’s post-war lawyer argued that simply because one was not a resistance hero, does not make him ipso facto a traitor.

In this final segment, by no means all-encompassing, I will discuss briefly, the rules and regulations imposed upon Alojzije Stepinac while serving as an Archbishop of Zagreb during World War II (WWII). Some of these rules were imposed on him by the Roman Catholic Church and by the decisions of the European League of Nations. By understanding what was required of Stepinac during the war, many accusations levelled against him will have to be reconsidered. 

During the war the Archbishop of Zagreb was bound by the Church Constitution, “Solicitude Ecclesiarum; issued by Pope Gregory XVI in l831. This document was consistent with provisions of the 1907 Hague and 1929 Geneva conventions, which affirmed that: 

During a state of war, all legal power passes into the hands of the occupier, who is authorized and obligated to maintain public order and public life by demanding obedience of the inhabitants, with specified exceptions.”  

The Church’s Constitution directed the highest religious authority to enter into discussion with the occupiers commanded that in order to ensure the spiritual welfare and rights of its parishioners, church representatives should enter into relation and a conversation, with those persons who actually exercise power, in other words with the occupiers. These representatives, of the likes of Archbishop Stepinac, also had a duty to defend the rights of the Roman Catholic Church as they existed prior to the occupation. Under these obligations, Stepinac acted as his vows and the Vatican expected of him. He chastised the regime for daily violations of church ordinances, such as forced conversions of Serbs who had already been baptized, although he approved of conversions that were voluntary and undergone in order to save human lives. Stepinac also raised his voice against violations of human rights and insisted on preserving human dignity.

Historians who questioned his visits to Slavko Kvaternik and Ante Pavelic and, in fact, accused him of treason, did it either out of ignorance of what his duties vis-à-vis the occupiers were or wished maliciously to accuse him of cooperating with the enemy. But, in fact, they failed to consider the constraints under which Stepinac was obliged to act in his official role as archbishop.  Stepinac always abided by the Laws of the Church which coincided with his own conscience. 

The Vatican instructed Stepinac to be mindful of his words and conduct, in the interest of saving lives. He also raised his voice against violations of human rights and requested conduct that would preserve human dignity. Historians of the likes of Ivo Goldstein and many other Serbian historians and politicians questioned his visits to Kvaternik and Pavelic accusing him of helping the enemy while in essence, he was acting exactly as he was supposed to act in order to keep law and order and save lives. performing as was requested of him to act in his official role as an archbishop.  

Moreover, the Vatican instructed Stepinac to be mindful of his words and conduct in the interest of saving lives. This was especially of the essence after the Vigorous efforts to defend Jews by the Catholic hierarchy in the Netherlands, when in 1942 the Nazis rounded up all Jews, even long-time converts, including priests and nuns, and ended their lives. The Dutch bishops demonstrated great courage, but 79 percent of the country’s Jews, 110.000 individuals, were murdered. The Nazis were determined to prevent similar attempts of rebellion against them and attempts to rescue Jews elsewhere.

Both Croatian and German officials viewed Stepinac as Judenfreundlich-friendly toward Jews. Stepinac acknowledged that the Ustashe would be a liability to the humanitarian fabric of the Croatian society for years to come, and he detested the Nazis, Ustashe and the communists in equal measure. Stepinac emphasized the Christian principles of justice and freedom of the individual and nations…

With great sorrow, he wrote: The Croatian government would have to bear full responsibility for the growth of the Communist partisan movement. Because of severe and unlawful measures employed against Orthodox Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies in imitation of German methods! 

I just cannot imagine that Pope Francis will ignore all the goodness Archbishop Stepinac has done during the war years! Yesterday was a Remembrance Day for all the Jews that have perished at the hand of Nazi Germany and their European collaborator. At some point during the memorial, my thoughts drifted to Archbishop Stepinac who, in 1942. prevented a major catastrophe when he heard that the governor of the Italian zones of occupation, Giuseppe Bastianini wished to send all the Jews, around 6000, back to the NDH (WWII Independent State of Croatia). Stepinac, jointly with Abbot Marcone obtained a permit, with the help of the Vatican, for all Jews to remain under the protection of the Italian Second Armata. My mother and I were among thousands of other Jews who survived. I owe gratitude and acknowledgment to Archbishop Stepinac and the Vatican! The documents and the testimonies of survivors demonstrate his unstoppable battle against the perpetrators’ devious plans. Stepinac’s generosity and kindness towards all those who sought his assistance, and received it regardless of religion, ethnicity, or political affiliation is documented in factual history! Thank you! Esther Gitman

Easter In Croatia – 2021 Looking Back To 1991

(R) Josip Jovic, the first casualty in Croatia’s 1990’s pursuit for independence. (L) Giant and magical Easter eggs proudly on display in front of Zagreb Cathedral 2021

Easter of 2021 is the second Easter of most difficult times many have seen when it comes to celebrating togetherness, together. The pandemic is the culprit. At Easter we usually crowd the churches, and, in our homes, we gather so that we can all experience the spirit of contemplation during the greatest celebration of Christianity. This year many across the world will not have this togetherness in physical presence but the soul, the heart and the mind connect and stay connected, cementing the love and joy in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

My thoughts and the thoughts of multitudes in the Croatian diaspora are with our first Homeland, Croatia. Croatia is being tested once again as the third wave of Covid-19 looms and threatens the very existence of community life in the coming months. And so, the Homeland and the diaspora shall remain united with faith and optimism.

Croatian diaspora keeps the Homeland in its heart and draws strength from Croatia, which feeds identity and belonging like little else in life. This source of strength in most difficult times has been proven a thousand times and we are familiar with the strength Croatian diaspora offered when defending Croatia from brutal Serb aggression became a matter of life and death. It was Easter 1991 when the first blood was shed in the goal of Croatia’s freedom and in preserving Christian identity, away from communist Yugoslavia.

Croatian diaspora’s love for Croatia is the compass that guides us in the crossing of any difficult road of life. On reflecting upon Croatia’s history, the sufferings and the sacrifices for freedom one may indeed compare this pain with the pain and suffering Jesus Christ endured on his torturous way to the Calvary. But just like Easter Day, the day of His resurrection, as we imbibe Croatia’s lush beauty, wine and cuisine cultivated by centuries of tradition in celebrating Christ, the utmost sacrifice and pain in achieving victory for its independence, we find that history never tasted so good; just as faith never tastes so good as it does at the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

At Easter 2021 it is inevitable for Croatians to contemplate on Easter 1991 with great sadness but also exquisite joy at what would be achieved once torture of bloody aggression was suffocated and victory came like resurrection of the Croatian thousand-year dream. Freedom and independence.

Easter of 1991 became to be known as Bloody Easter (“Krvavi Uskrs”). Every year, 31st March marks the anniversary of the death of Josip Jovic, the first Croatian defending Croatia killed in the Homeland War. He sustained fatal wounds in the area of Plitvice Lakes when Serb rebels mounted a vicious onslaught against Croatia’s efforts to pursue a path of secession from communist Yugoslavia. This incident of recent Croatian history hinted that the battle for Croatian freedom and independence would be difficult and bloody. It is this tragic event that will go down in our history as Bloody Easter.

Croatian peoples’ intention to get out of communist Yugoslavia and become a sovereign, independent State had accelerated during 1990 as changes on the political landscape saw new political parties formed towards a democratic future, Croatia’s Constitution being written, Croatia’s diaspora connected to help fight for democracy and on 30th May 1990 Croatia held its first session of a democratic Parliament, inaugurating the Croatian Parliament. A section of Croatia’s Serbs who did not want to be a part of independent Croatia even though, overall, they were a minority in Croatia, grew into terrorist formations and in October 1990 proclaimed a part of Croatia their so-called “Serbian Autonomous Region of Krajina” (SAO Krajina). Ethnic cleansing and abuse of Croatians living in that region was evidently on the cards.

The day prior to the Bloody Easter incident at Plitvice Lakes in 1991, Serbian extremists and rebels in that region organised the so-called “rally of truth”, demanding that the Plitvice Lakes National Park remain part of the rebel Serb freshly self-proclaimed and so-called SAO Krajina. The next day, another illegal decision to dismiss the management of the National Park and the beginning of terrorising non-Serb workers followed. A bus full of Serb extremists from Knin had arrived in the Plitvice area, known worldwide for its natural beauty and under the protection of UNESCO. Serb rebels entered the administrative building of the National Park, blocked the main public road to the south, to the so-called SAO Krajina, at dawn the SAO Krajina flag was found raised at the Korana River bridge in the area.  

These events at Plitvice called for immediate intervention. The young Croatian police force had a task of establishing order and peace in the park area. However, before dawn on March 31, rebel Serbs ambushed a convoy of vehicles with Croatian special forces on the main route not far from Plitvice hotels.

Gun fire opened from the surrounding forest, and an anti-tank mine entered the bus full of Croatian police officers, which fortunately did not explode due to an unpulled fuse. This was followed by the police officers’ hurried exit from the bus, lying down by the road, opening fire in the direction from which the shooting came and slowly advancing through the thick fog and deep snow that surrounded Plitvice that Easter.

The conflict lasted for several hours. Unfortunately, in the action, an enemy bullet fatally wounded 22-year-old Croatian policeman Josip Jovic, a member of the Special Tasks Unit of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Croatia, Rakitje. Despite the quick intervention by the ambulance medics, Jovic died from wounds on the way to the hospital. A dozen more Croatian police officers were wounded.

Serb rebels issued an ultimatum to Croatian forces to leave Plitvice. But that was resolutely rejected. Although the action of the special units of the Ministry of the Interior in Plitvice was of a limited character, and in the totality of all future horrendous events of the Homeland War it was relatively small in scope, but it was the first such action of defending Croatia, above all successful, which far exceeds its importance in armed terms.

Croatians stood their ground to defend their people and land at Easter 1991. A show of remarkable and extraordinary love of Homeland was set in action then. The faith in the Croatian nation that smouldered and sparkled in the hearts for a thousand years was fortified, once again, by action of courage and love there at Plitivice Lake in 1991, at Easter! Let’s keep it that way – Croatia and its diaspora!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3)

Happy and Blessed Easter everyone!

Ina Vukic

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