Croatian History And Deconstruction Of Lies

Esther Gitman as child survivor of the Holocaust;
Escaped Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina via the Island of Korcula,
Croatia – 1941.
Photo: Private album

Deconstructing the lies that communists and pro- Greater Serbia politically astute mercenaries have pursued on WWII Croatian historiography, with view to vilify Blessed Alojzije (Aloysius) Stepinac (WWII Archbishop of Zagreb persecuted and falsely accused of Nazi collaboration by Josip Broz Tito’s communist Yugoslavia) and the Croatian nation as a whole, is a path upon which only the brave and the strong tread. A deconstruction of lies, which constitute even to this day approved history, is the best way to challenge the communist word laundrette that turned and still turns negation of and disregard for historical facts into redemption of the unredeemable.

On Wednesday 13 February 2019 Dr. Esther Gitman, a Holocaust survivor herself, launched her new book “Alojzije Stepinac: Pillar of Human Rights” in Zagreb, Croatia. This is her second book (the first one being “When Courage Prevailed: The Rescue and Survival of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia 1941-1945”) armed with facts on the deeds and the human rights preservation mindset of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac that witnesses his giant efforts in rescuing Jews (and others) from the destiny of WWII destruction and extermination; that bears witness via historical facts and documents of Stepinac’s active pursuits in protecting and preserving human rights of the persecuted and the threatened during those WWII years. On the same day, the President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, presented Dr Gitman with a Medal of Honour for special merits gained by researching, documenting and promoting the truth about Croatian history of the 20th century, as well as for the deepening of understanding between the Croatian and Jewish peoples.

In pursuit of absolute historical truth, Dr. Gitman belongs among the very few whose works lend themselves to deconstruction of historiographical lies that were and still are being forced upon the world in nothing less than a conspiratorial manner.

The consequences of the conspiracy of lies against Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, against the Croatian people, have been huge and disastrous. The consequences are not only those interfering with Stepinac’s canonisation but those that prevent deserved justice for victims no matter what religion or ethnicity they may have been or are.

The famous – and by now overused – expression that history is written by the victors can be countered in many ways. One way is by unpacking the victors’ publications in order to expose the lies, fabrications and misrepresentations. Anther way is to dig deep for evidence that topples lies, absolutely!

Gitman’s objective and extensive research, sourcing not only thousands upon thousands of archived documents but also witness accounts and testimonies, unlocks fresh historiographical perspectives on the big picture of that WWII period in which Blessed Alojzije Stepinac lived and acted as Archbishop. The “declassified” documents in particular allow us to see the true picture in a higher resolution than what history written within and in collaboration with the communist Yugoslavia yields.

Justice and facts, moral positions, professional acumen and scholarly accuracy should not be juxtaposed one against the other but rather seen as all contributing to a wholesome historiographical enterprise. Indeed, the historiographical projects of deconstructing lies about Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, and the one delving into the number of people who perished during WWII in camps such as Jasenovac are in need of such an integrative approach. But with personalities such as Simon Wiesenthal Center’s pro-communist/pro-Serbian Efraim Zuroff and pro-Serbian Gideon Greif, who clutter the world’s stage with malicious statements against WWII Croatia, full deconstruction of lies presents as an almost impossible task. The deconstruction of lies, where these two men are concerned, becomes seemingly an even more impossible task given that WWII Serbia was in fact one of the first European countries, having exterminated some 94% of its Jews by May 1942, to declare itself “Jew-free”, and this fact viciously guarded from public domain. It appears that this fact has not moved these two men, otherwise credited with much of the pursuits for justice for victims of the Holocaust, to pursue justice for Serbia’s victims of the Holocaust – indeed, they seem complicit in the masking and obscuring those facts from the world’s public!

Esther Gitman receiving Medal of Honour from
President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic
13 February 2019
Photo HINA/ Daniel KASAP/ dkas

In the book “Alojzije Stepinac: Pillar of Human Rights”, Dr. Gitman investigates how and why a Croatian priest in his thirties from a rural background became a hero to his people, the Catholic Church and many throughout the world. Dr. Gitman explained that with the declassification U.S. Intelligence Records under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act of 1998, many one-sided perspectives were slowly beginning to be replaced by a new and nuanced version of Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac’s during the Second World War.

My own research demonstrates that Stepinac forcefully denounced the human rights violations perpetrated through the implementation of the Ustaša legislation directed against Jews, Serbs and Roma … and on every occasion demanded a return to the law of God. In 1941, when two of his priests and six nuns of Jewish origin were absolved from wearing the yellow Star of David, Stepinac solemnly declared: ‘I have requested that these priests and nuns continue wearing this sign of belonging to the people from which Our Savior was born as long as others will have to do so,’” said Dr. Gitman at the launch of the book in Zagreb.

Through her study of the unchartered territory of the rescue of Jews during the regime of the Independent State of Croatia within the broader context of the Holocaust, Dr. Gitman challenged the broad perception promoted by some historians, including two Israelis (Zuroff and Greif), and the Serbian regime, that the entire Croatian population, then and now, was culpable for the crimes committed by the Ustasha.

In the Croatian State Archives, Dr. Gitman discovered 420 petitions written on behalf of Jews, signed by thousands of people, concerned citizens who expected a response from the authorities. Stepinac’s letters, as well as those from his parishioners addressed to the prime minister, Ante Pavelic; and the minister of internal affairs, Andrije Artukovic, expressed their distress due to the authorities’ conduct. Owing to the regulations of the Church, the Hague Convention and the Geneva Convention, Stepinac was obligated to maintain contact with the occupying forces for the sake of public order. Stepinac had to be able to speak with Pavelic, who was the only authority in a position to mitigate the terror and murder, explained Dr. Gitman.

She emphasised that Stepinac denounced Nazism, fascism, communism and “throughout the war years followed but one rule: ‘Only one race exists and that is the Divine race.’” As the representative of the Catholic Church, Stepinac considered raising his voice in protest against the atrocities perpetrated by the Ustasha government to be his sacred duty.

According to Dr. Gitman, Stepinac represented Croatian values and the values of Western civilization through his unflagging defense of freedom and the value of the individual as an independent entity, freedom and respect for religious beliefs and nationalities, freedom and respect for every race and nationality, freedom and respect for private property as the foundation of the personal freedom of the individual and the family, and freedom and respect for the right of every nation to the complete and independent development of national life.

Alojzije Stepinac: Pillar of Human Rights by Esther Gitman
Bookcovers

As unravelling written history, the one written by the victors (communists and their partners), through research of material to be found in archives continues, one may indeed find that many or most WWII Ustashas found the crimes with which the Ustasha regime is burdened – abhorrent. Their fight in the war was all about independence and self-preservation of the Croatian independent state; a fight against oppression. It needs to be mentioned here that most recent research into the Croatian WWII Jasenovac camp, e.g. research by Igor Vukic and Roman Leljak, strongly suggests an entirely different picture (especially when it comes to the number of victims) to the one being served to the world by communists, former communists and pro-Serbian activists. Furthermore, extensive research into communist crimes By Blanka Matkovic and other researchers from the Dr Rudolph Horvat association have aptly collated much material on their website, Croatia Rediviva, regarding WWII Jasenovac that goes towards deconstruction of historiographical lies.

In the Preface to her book „Alojzije Stepinac: Pillar of Human Rights“, Dr Gitman writes: „Just a few words that describe some of my experiences, which motivated me to undertake an ambitious task as going back to school in my late 50’s, with an objective to earn a Ph.D. in an area that little or no research has been done: Rescue of Jews during WWII in the Ustaše controlled Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, all those who heard the title of my research it sounded as an oxymoron. I recall, that prior to sending my application for a submission for a Fulbright fellowship, the interviewer asked: What is your research topic and why would it deserves such a prestigious fellowship? Your excellent grades are not enough! My reply was: “I would like to research the rescue of Jews in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovian during WWII, 1941-1945. I saw a look of surprise on the interviewer face, finally she asked: “Why on earth would you want to research such a topic, when the entire world knows that the Croats were murders? I replied: “Yes, many Jews were murdered in the Ustashe concentration camps, but, my mother and I survived and so did all the other Jews I knew in my childhood, it all happened due to the help we received from Croatian friends, neighbors, clergy and other entities.“ She hardly let me finish, exclaiming: “Amazing story, I never heard it before! Please, write a strong proposal, ask your professors to review it and then bring it to me for a final evaluation.”

On that note, deconstructing historical lies is the most amazing story today’s world can be gifted with, no matter whose history that deconstruction targets. We are shaped by our history and if that shape does no justice to the truth then, indeed, it is the responsibility of all to work on changing that unacceptable shape. Ina Vukic

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