„Dara of Jesenovac“ – Another Serbian Movie To Obscure Jew-Free Serbia And Its Holocaust Implementation

You may notice how on the topic of WWII Holocaust, Serbia systematically insists that the extermination of Jews (abt 94%) in WWII Serbia was not done by Serbs but by the German occupier. They will tell you that Serbia was occupied by the Nazis (Germany) then – you will not hear them saying that Germany had occupied the entire Yugoslavia (the then Serb-led dictatorship of the crumbled Kingdom of Yugoslavia, which included Croatia) in April 1941. They will tell you that only Serbia was occupied and that the German Nazis exterminated Serbia’s Jews!

Yet as a matter of historical fact, Serbia’s Milan Nedic government had with all its might implemented the Holocaust and made sure that by June 1942 Serbia was one of the first countries in Europe to become „Judenfrei“ (Clean-of-Jews/ Jew-Free). Croatia or rather its Ante Pavelic government at the time never pursued a „Judenfrei“ status, even if it was, as most countries in one form or another, guilty of racial laws that saw many perish or be ostracised, but overwhelmingly less than what Yugoslav communists with Serbs have been fabricating since 1945, and overwhelmingly less than what „Jedenfrei“ status required. Not that such reality justifies any victims of WWII racial laws, but it certainly places into perspective the intrinsic need of Serbia to hide its miserable WWII truth by pointing fingers at others, including Croatia, in order to throw attention away from itself. In that, Serbia and communist Yugoslavia, not only set themselves on the path for blaming Croatia for the WWII Holocaust within Yugoslavia’s borders but also fabricated to the unimaginable the numbers of Serbs allegedly killed by Croats in that war together with the Jews.

On 25 January 2018, in its relentless propaganda pursuits of hiding its own WWII „Judenfrei“ state, Serbia opened at the UN building in New York an exhibition called „Jasenovac – The Right Not To Forget.“  

In January 2021 it released a Serbian state-funded movie „Dara of Jasenovac“ and it has the audacity to even submit the movie as a nomination for 2021 Oscars! It did not, for example, produce a movie by a name such as „Hannah from Cannon Sheds“ (Topovske Šupe concentration camp at outskirts of Belgrade). Of course it did not, if it did it would have to produce a film about the extermination of Jews in Serbia and not pair Serbs as victims alongside the Jews as it is doing in the movie „Dara of Jasenovac“.

Here below are excerpts from the article „Dara of Jasenovac Review: A Holocaust Movie With Questionable Intentions“ written by Jay Weissberg and published by the renowned Variety Magazine portal on 25 January 2021:  

Serbia’s Oscar submission is thinly disguised propaganda, cynically using the Holocaust to push a troubling nativist agenda.

Isn’t it long past time that there was an honest discussion about why there are so many Holocaust films? Unquestionably some meet the challenge posed by the injunction “never forget” but too many others exist because the market has proven that the Holocaust sells. The movies falling into this latter category trivialize and they sensationalize, fiddling on heart strings with a facile bow whose chords jump between lurid and saccharine. A subset within this group folds more troubling objectives into their cynical understanding of the market, using the Shoah to push agendas that have little to do with comprehending the unfathomable.

It’s a testament to the cravenness of the Holocaust industry that an undisguised piece of Serbian nationalist propaganda like Peter (Predrag) Antonijević’s “Dara of Jasenovac” dressed up in concentration camp clothing, can find distribution outside its native land. Less surprising is that it’s been submitted for Oscar consideration…

The makers of “Dara of Jasenovac” emphasize that the screenplay comes from witness testimony, using that tried-and-true statement to shield themselves from criticism: It happened; therefore we are above reproach. The problems with the film however are twofold: Its unconcealed anti-Croatian, anti-Catholic nativism is badly designed as incendiary fodder for current rifts between Serbia and its neighbors, while its delight in visualizing the sadism, contrasted with childhood innocence, pushes aside any reflection on the dagers of nationalism, murderous racism and genocide, replacing them with cheap sensation and sentiment…

Were there no contemporary context to “Dara of Jaenovac,” it would be just another unmodulated Holocaust drama using violence in the same way as any number of serial killer movies. But background is inescapable, and in this case, Serbian nationalists’ use of Jasenovac as a rallying cry for Serb victimhood through the centuries turns the film into propaganda. Scholar Jovan Byford has cogently detailed how linking Serbian suffering to the Shoah has long been a play to garner international sympathy and legitimize territorial expansion together with racist policies, and that’s exactly what “Dara” plays into. In addition, situating the Ilić family’s home in Mirkovci is tossing red meat to the anti-Croatian brigades given that the town remains a bitter site of contention after the genocidal breakup if Yugoslavia. A Holocaust movie designed to stoke animosity against Germany today would be roundly condemned; to not recognize the same problems here is wilful blindness…”. Ina Vukic

Croatia: The End of Anti-Fascism

European Parliament

A European Parliament resolution has 19 September 2019 condemned Communism as equivalent to Nazism. To my view equating communism with Nazism is not enough; communism or its fantasy name of anti-fascism surpasses in the bulk of its crimes any other regime known to humanity. The moral superiority Anti-Fascists of Croatia (of Yugoslavia and all other former communist European states) have pinned to themselves undisturbed by the facts of history that sink such moral superiority to the depths of despair is set to fall and be banished. Remembering and acting upon the real past will ensure that.

“Remembering the victims of totalitarian regimes and recognising and raising awareness of the shared European legacy of crimes committed by communist, Nazi and other dictatorships is of vital importance for the unity of Europe and its people and for building European resilience to modern external threats,” is a strong point as to how the Resolution emphasises the importance of Europe’s historical memory for its future needs.

The parliament demands development of a “common culture of remembrance that rejects the crimes of fascist, Stalinist, and other totalitarian and authoritarian regimes of the past as a way of fostering resilience against modern threats to democracy, particularly among the younger generation.”

Some will undoubtedly say that legislating to establish an ‘official’ view of history, such as EU Parliament on 19 September 2019 with its resolution on “the importance of remembrance for the future of Europe” is not a good idea. However, when looking from the victims’ point of view this resolution has all the hallmarks of setting justice right for all. We are only too aware that history of Communist crimes during and post-WWII has enjoyed blanket coverups and unjustifiable justification while crimes committed by the Nazi regime were kept in European history as the only crimes that have been committed en masse against humanity.

In the mid‐2000s many believed that the Holocaust could become a common memory for Europe. This was opposed by many also, mostly Central and East European conservatives in former communist countries, politicians and intellectuals on the grounds that an exclusive emphasis on the Holocaust would not do justice to the victims of other totalitarian regimes (particularly the communist regimes). While very few of them questioned the uniqueness of the Holocaust openly by declaring Nazism and communism ‘equally criminal’ (Sandra Kalniete, quoted in Troebst s. [2010], ‘Halecki Revisited’; p. 60. Pakier, M. and Strath, B. [eds] A European Memory? New York:Berghahn Books), they did argue that paying too much attention to the victims of the Holocaust came at the expense of the victims of other totalitarian regimes, so the latter are effectively treated as second‐class victims. This communist crimes agenda was and is opposed mostly by the European (including Croatia) left whose proponents believe that it illegitimately relativises the Holocaust and falsifies history by equating communist regimes with Nazism. The main elements of the anti‐communist rhetorical repertoire had been developed before the European memory debate. In the 1990s many conservative politicians in post‐communist countries built their political profile on an uncompromising anti‐communist stance and on the objective of raising awareness about the crimes of communist regimes and their victims.

There was no other way to give justice for the forgotten and downtrodden victims of communist crimes. So, good for these politicians I say. One could go further and say that the former communist countries in Europe fought against communism in order to bring justice to all victims, regardless of which regime brought them about.

The European parliament’s resolution on ‘the importance of European remembrance for the future of Europe’ is to replace previous political statements on human rights in relation to that conflict. The motion for the EUP Resolution was conceived as a spirited statement against all forms of political extremism. The text reaffirms “the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law” while calling on all EU institutions “to do their utmost to ensure that horrific totalitarian crimes against humanity are remembered” and “guarantee that such crimes will never be repeated.”

Given that resolutions confirming commitments to the condemnation of totalitarian regimes, like the 2009 one that saw  the establishment of the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism each 23 August, which has been in place for over a decade, one may well ask what does this new resolution really add to the continent’s political ingredients? For all its admirable sentiment, this latest resolution gives a firm footing to making history right even though there are those who will say that a deeply problematic form of historical revisionism lurks beneath the surface. If, however, one considers historical revisionism as a necessary process to reflect true facts not myths (the European history, Croatian history of the 20th century is riddled with myths and fabrication driven by the communists) then the only opponents to this EU resolution will be former communists and their allies. No doubt about it – they still want to hide behind their false mask of bringing freedom to the people.

It’s time the Croatian Constitution removes from its Historical Foundations any reference to anti-fascist contribution to the independence of Croatia! It had none! Anti-Fascists always fought for Yugoslavia! And a communist one at that!

“European integration has, from the start, been a response to the suffering inflicted by two world wars and by the Nazi tyranny that led to the Holocaust, and to the expansion of totalitarian and undemocratic communist regimes”, reads the text of the Resolution.

The resolution in its article M.3 is undeniably correct in its assertion that “Nazi and communist regimes carried out mass murders, genocide and deportations and caused a loss of life and freedom in the 20th century on a scale unseen in human history”. Treating the two as equal would not be my choice of approach, nor a reflection of factual history. That is, If the world measures the severity of crimes against humanity by the number of victims then Communist regimes murdered many millions more than the Nazi regime did and in that sense its place in condemnation needs to be lifted above the crimes of Nazi regime. And, I do not say this in defence of the Nazi regime – I say this in defence of victims of both the Nazi and communist regimes. Croatia alone is filled with mass graves of communist crimes, almost 2000 discovered so far! And when you look at the population living there during and after WWII these figures take on an unfathomably horrific proportion!

The EU Resolution “Expresses its deep respect for each victim of these totalitarian regimes and calls on all EU institutions and actors to do their utmost to ensure that horrific totalitarian crimes against humanity and systemic gross human rights violations are remembered and brought before courts of law, and to guarantee that such crimes will never be repeated; stresses the importance of keeping the memories of the past alive, because there can be no reconciliation without remembrance, and reiterates its united stand against all totalitarian rule from whatever ideological background.”

This article of the resolution is hopefully bound to embolden Croatian politicians and activists to make the necessary steps, pass laws and the like in order to finally usher in Lustration (decommunisation) – rid all corridors of power of former communist operatives and those publicly known to promote the Yugoslav communist regime that once was. Some will say there are no communists in Croatia but have no doubt: communist culture, communist mindset, communist nostalgia – exist! And this is what is holding Croatia back from progressing into a fully democratic, customer, taxpayer needs oriented nation.

Hence, practical policy and legislation in Croatia (as in the whole of Europe and beyond) are still hindered by the different treatment of the past. People across the world and particularly in the West still know very little about how much of Central Europe (Croatia included) and most of Eastern Europe fell under a different dictatorship after Hitler’s occupation was defeated that was no better. It has disrupted practical cooperation and remains a very serious obstacle on the road to more effective and closer cooperation in the EU. The resolution includes a proposal to add talking about the crimes of totalitarian regimes to the programs of all EU schools.

Here is hoping, and indeed a platform for the positive and superior portrayal of Croatia’s communists and partisans in school textbooks to be removed swiftly.

The matter of a European memory is far from being a merely symbolic issue with no political consequences. Imagining Europe and its past in different ways will lead to different and real political outcomes. What is at stake in answering these questions from the past is nothing less than the future direction of the EU, and closer to home – of Croatia. As visions for the future of the organisation are intimately connected to historical accounts of the continent’s past, determining the common European approach to the past is a highly influential decision for the EU’s future.

Banning the symbols of Nazism but not those of communism leads to unjustifiable double standards and feeds those double standards. Croatia surely knows that but the overwhelming power held by former communists or sympathisers of former communist Yugoslavia still chooses to ignore that.

There is one particularly noteworthy genre of writing among the many that developed in the 20th century in Europe. After World War II communism enslaved the people of much of Central Europe and most of East Europe. But the tragedy does not end there – communist regimes erased their true story from the overall history of the Continent. Europe had just rid itself of the plague of Nazism. It was quite understandable that after the bloodbath of the war, few people had the strength or resolve to face the bitter truth. They could not deal with the fact that behind the communist regimes, communists continued to commit genocide against the peoples of these countries.

Dr Esther Gitman and her book:
“Alojzije Stepinac: Pillar of Human Rights”

For 50 years the history in Croatia (as in all former communist countries) was written without the participation of these victims of genocide. Not surprisingly, the victors of World War II have written a history that separates the good from the bad and the right from the wrong from their perspective. Not from the perspective of the truth! It is only since the collapse of the Berlin Wall that researchers have been able to access archived documents and the life stories of the victims. It is only after Croatia won its Homeland War in 1995 (1998 with peaceful reintegration of Serb and Yugoslav Army aggressor occupied areas) (the war for secession from communist Yugoslavia) that Croatia was able to research its own truth. These confirm the truth that the two totalitarian regimes – Nazism and Communism – were equally criminal, albeit communist crimes far surpass those of the crimes ascribed to the so-called Ustashe regime of the NDH/WWII Independent State of Croatia. Indeed, research such as Dr Esther Gitman’s (a Holocaust survivor herself) into the rescue and survival of Jews during NDH verifiably demonstrates that good deeds and good was widespread among Croats (non-communists) during those horrific times of war in Croatia.

We must never see the two ideologies as holding different positions on the scale of good and bad just because one of them was victorious over the other. That battle against Fascism cannot be seen as something, which for ever exonerates the sins of the communist regime that oppressed countless innocents in the name of communist ideology. I am firmly convinced that it is the duty of our generation to reverse this mistake. The losers in World War II must also write their story, because it deserves a firm place in the overall history of Europe and the world. Without this, the broader history will remain unilateral, incomplete and dishonest – and utterly unfair to the victims of communist crimes.

General Zeljko Glasnovic
Independent Member of Croatian Parliament
for Croats living abroad

The Croatians living outside of Croatia, the millions that fled the communist regime know this fact only too well. It is, therefore, a welcome move which the European Parliament made on 19 September. Perhaps, the strongest (but almost lone) voice in the Croatian Parliament – that of the independent member for Croatians in the diaspora and Bosnia and Herzegovina – retired General Zeljko Glasnovic, who has been a persistent and loud advocator for justice for victims of communist crimes and decommunisation of Croatia (and often laughed at within the parliament by the majority parliamentary members who draw their roots from the former communist pool because of the decommunisation platform content of his speeches) will now get to pursue his agenda surrounded by the silence of shame (or even fear from own guilt) on the faces of former communists and their staunch followers sitting there! Ina Vukic


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

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

Disclaimer, Terms and Conditions:

All content on “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is for informational purposes only. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is not responsible for and expressly disclaims all liability for the interpretations and subsequent reactions of visitors or commenters either to this site or its associate Twitter account, @IVukic or its Facebook account. Comments on this website are the sole responsibility of their writers and the writer will take full responsibility, liability, and blame for any libel or litigation that results from something written in or as a direct result of something written in a comment. The nature of information provided on this website may be transitional and, therefore, accuracy, completeness, veracity, honesty, exactitude, factuality and politeness of comments are not guaranteed. This blog may contain hypertext links to other websites or webpages. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of information on any other website or webpage. We do not endorse or accept any responsibility for any views expressed or products or services offered on outside sites, or the organisations sponsoring those sites, or the safety of linking to those sites. Comment Policy: Everyone is welcome and encouraged to voice their opinion regardless of identity, politics, ideology, religion or agreement with the subject in posts or other commentators. Personal or other criticism is acceptable as long as it is justified by facts, arguments or discussions of key issues. Comments that include profanity, offensive language and insults will be moderated.
%d bloggers like this: