Croatia: Betrayal Of Truth In Face Of Relentless Serb Aggression

Serbian delegation at Jadovno, Croatia 21 June 2015 Aleksandar Vulin, left

Serbian delegation at Jadovno, Croatia
21 June 2015
Aleksandar Vulin, left

Reactions by the Croatian government, the Opposition and the office of the President to the attacks made on Croatian soil by Serbia’s minister for employment and social affairs, Aleksandar Vulin, against Croatia’s  Blessed Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac and the practice by which all victims of WWII and post-WWII, regardless of who committed the murders – whether Nazis, Fascist or Communist – deserve same respect and compassion, have been appalling.

On Sunday 21 June 2015 Serbia’s minister Vulin represented Serbia’s government at the commemoration for the victims that perished at the WWII concentration camp Jadovno run by the Ustashe. The commemoration was organised by the Serb National Council (SNV), the Co-ordinating Body of Jewish Municipalities in Croatia, the Karlovac Serb Orthodox diocese, and the Association of Anti-Fascists and Anti-Fascist Fighters of Croatia.
Serbia’s minister Aleksandar Vulin came there with the intention of offending today’s Croatia and today’s Croatian people, and the truth about Blessed Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac who is due to be pronounced a saint by the Vatican. In an angry and hateful voice Vulin shouted as he repeatedly referred to Aloysius Stepinac as the “Ustashe Vicar”:
What do I say to the murdered Serbian children who after 74 years, on the streets of the most beautiful cities, hear the same song and names of those who had thrown them into the pit? What kind of a life is it that recommended the Vicar of the Ustashe to be made a Saint,” insinuating ominously that WWII-style fascism fills the streets of today’s Croatia.
Vulin then yelled, as if struck by vicious rabies, that the “same hands cannot lay wreaths at Bleiburg and Jasenovac”. With the latter he meant that the victims of the Holocaust and the victims of Communist crimes cannot be considered equally as victims! Even if both groups were butchered or slaughtered by equally brutal means and politically similar intents. This is so very wrong and the world and truth have no chance of peace with such views.
There have certainly been many efforts across the world by various personalities in differentiating between the victims of the Holocaust and the victims of Communist crimes. Efforts to place victims of the Holocaust much higher than those of Communist regimes on a scale that measures some concocted “severity of victimhood” – as if being a victim of murder isn’t a state of equal atrocity in all circumstances. The tantrum and the insulting words said by Serbia’s minister Vulin on Croatian soil must be condemned and discredited strongly by Croatian state leadership. All we’ve heard from them so far is that “Croatia is above Vulin’s provocation”, “Vulin is not our problem, he is not Croatia’s problem … Vulin is Serbia’s prime minister’s problem”, “Vulin does not deserve attention”, “this is not the time nor the place to react to such statements”… Appalling! Evasive! Half-baked! Offends!
Not good enough!

 

Undoubtedly, there are those who argue that responding to a fool’s words (and Vulin is a fool, to say the least) dignifies both the fool and his/her words and so, it’s best not to react, not to reply…The problem with this train of thought is that by following it one actually achieves the exact results that the fool (Vulin) wanted and these are: the wounding and the hurt of the people one is supposed to protect from hurt!

 

Vulin is Croatia’s problem because he insults the truth, he insults the Croatian people who live and have lived and have given their lives for the Croatian truth! Every Croatian politician, every leader must protect and defend that truth and not permit anyone to spit on the memory of the truth such as the one that comes with the goodness of Blessed Aloysius Stepinac and the suffering of all victims of crimes inspired by any motives.
Not a single Croatian leader had, at least, reminded Serbia’s minister Vulin, and thereby – Serbia, that Croatia’s WWII Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac is being prepared for sainthood in the Catholic Church because of his good deeds, which include his significant role in saving many Jews, Serbs, Roma etc. from WWII Nazi extermination! After all, all are aware of indisputable research findings by Dr. Esther Gitman (Rescue and Survival of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia, 1941-1945) and yet failed to mention even that in response to Vulin’s profound insults to the truth!

Blessed Alojzije (Aloysius) Stepinac Oil painting Croatian Church Chicago

Blessed Alojzije (Aloysius) Stepinac
Oil painting Croatian Church Chicago

What chance has the truth got without its champions; without its champions whose voices are heard far and wide? None!

What truly offends every decent human being is that Vulin comes from Serbia to condemn the Nazi-led exterminations in WWII Croatia and neither says or suggests even a tiny squeak about Nazi-led exterminations in Serbia under prime minister Milan Nedic and the Chetnik butcher Draza Mihailovic, executed after WWII for collaboration with the Nazis and rehabilitated by today’s Serbia – Vulin’s Serbia!

Serbia's Prince Pavle Karadjordjevic with Adolf Hitler

Serbia’s Prince Pavle Karadjordjevic with
Adolf Hitler

Vulin’s WWII Serbia was the second country in Europe, after Estonia, to be declared “Judenfrei” (Jew Free) as it exterminated 94% of its Jews by mid-1942. It collaborated with the Nazis with open arms and, sadly, there was not a single politician in Croatia last week that took the time to remind the world of this fact – loudly and decisively rejecting Vulin and his hateful speech at Jadovno.

Serbia's World War II  Prime Minister Milan Nedic Delivers a speech of Holocaust support

Serbia’s World War II
Prime Minister Milan Nedic
Delivers a speech of Holocaust support

The places for Vulin’s condemnation are on Serbia’s sites of the WWII concentration camps Sajmiste, Banjica, Topovske Supe … not on Croatia’s sites! I have had enough of Serbia’s leaders pointing fingers at WWII camps in Croatia in order to hide those in Serbia! I am so desperately disappointed at Croatia’s leaders for failing to protect the whole truth of WWII and failing to show Vulin the way back to Serbia and Serbia’s perished Jews and Romany people at the hands of Serbia’s WWII thugs.

Banjica concentration camp, Serbia World War II

Banjica concentration camp,
Serbia World War II

Vulin as almost all Serbs I have come across, met or read about, are very eager and willing to talk about the Holocaust in Croatia, because the dominant narrative there is that Serbs perished with Jews! But if you ask them about Serbia, it is a remnant of how things were seen in the communist Yugoslavia era, in which there was no recognition of the Holocaust in Serbia! Also – no recognition of extermination of Romany people even if they did perish alongside the Jews in WWII Serbia. And if one stumbled upon some recognition of the Holocaust in Serbia then that Holocaust was somebody other than Serb’s fault! Well the occupying Nazi did not and could not achieve the extermination of Jews in Serbia without crucial collaboration from the Serbs and Serbia’s government.

Serbia's World War II Prime Minister Milan Nedic with Adolf Hitler

Serbia’s World War II Prime Minister
Milan Nedic with Adolf Hitler

Vulin’s hateful speech at Jadovno, Croatia, Sunday June 21, is another notch that clearly demonstrates the fact that when sponsoring Holocaust memory Serbia actually has other ideas in mind rather than promoting human and minority issues. In Serbia the Holocaust memory is utilised and tailored in such a way that while in theory it preaches human and minority rights, in practice, it not only actually promotes nationalism and Serbian victimhood “but also disguises the discourse on the role of Serbia in the wars of the 1990’s…This role of victim turns out to be a comfortable one for shutting down any political spaces where open public discussions on the role of Serbia in the wars of the 1990’s would be possible: if I am a victim I cannot be responsible for anything, and no one can argue with me because it would be showing a lack of respect for a victim. It is actually a powerful position and it is used to escape any responsibility for the crimes in the wars of 1990’s,” (History and Politics in the Western Balkans, Srdjan M. Jovanovic and Vjeran Stancetic, 2013) and it is used to escape any responsibility for WWII and any other wars in which Serbs butchered mercilessly. The latest example of obscene use of tailored Serbian victimhood is in Serbia’s announcement that Serbia and Serbian Republic in Bosnia and Herzegovina (created on genocide such as Srebrenica, on ethnic cleansing) will jointly be commemorating August 5th as the Remembrance Day of Serbian Victims and Deported! Remember, August 5th is the day that Croatia celebrates victory the 1990’s Serb aggression and occupation!

Serbia says it wants to join the European Union. That process will surely require more work in resolving regional tensions that originate especially from WWII, post-WWII and during the 1990’s wars of Serb aggression since communist Yugoslavia crumbled. Hopefully the process will bring pressure on Serbia to confront the fate of many thousands of Serbian Jews. Serbia is a signatory to the non-binding 2009 Terezin declaration, Holocaust Era Asset Conference , committing to return property to the families of Holocaust victims and to ensure mass graves are identified and protected. Even if the implementation has been stalled – it will come, it will, it must. Perhaps the lack of due reaction from Croatian leadership to Vulin’s insults against Blessed Aloysius Stepinac and victims of communist crimes has something to do with the fact that Croatian leadership, like Serbia’s is filled with former communists who have divided the most valuable assets belonging to exterminated or exiled Jews among themselves after WWII! Hopefully, the process of reaching EU membership will also bring pressure on Serbia to own up to the atrocities it perpetrated in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during 1990’s.
Serbia lags alarmingly behind several of its neighbours in recognising the crimes committed against Jews on its soil. Neighbouring Hungary, Croatia and Macedonia each have museums dedicated to the Holocaust. A small museum in Serbia, founded in the 1960s, looks at the general history of Jews in Yugoslavia. Serbia has mastered the art suppressing its ugly truth and the art of air brushing certain historical episodes while burnishing others to its undeserved benefit and it seems Croatia’s leadership is letting Serbia’s envoys blacken it’s brilliant son – the Blessed Aloysius Stepinac – on its own soil. It seems Croatia’s leaders of today are going along with Serbia’s efforts to suppress its own WWII ugly history! How painfully disappointing! The huge elephant in the room – the Croatian enemy that Serbia still is – exists; stop pretending it does not! Croatian people deserve better words and deeds from their leaders than what they experienced around the Vulin insults at Jadovno last Sunday 21st June. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Psychological Operations And Information Warfare Against Croatia and Croats – Part V

Click on Banner image to enlarge

Click on Banner image to enlarge

Guest Post
By Ante Horvat

The former Yugoslav regime elements and their children spearheaded subversive activities against the facts, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Croats from the 1990s, through to today.

While overtly Yugoslav nationalist in their rhetoric, still to today expending taxpayer resources celebrating the Communist “liberation” and 1945 Partisan (private property) “liberators” of Croatia, they were the first to declare any opponents of their sham anti-war agenda as “nationalist,” “primitive nationalists,” etc. – blaming “nationalists” on “both sides” for the war, and not the marriage of greater Serbian fascism and retrograde Yugoslav Communist Titoism and the detailed Serbian General Officers plan for aggression, beginning with the reorganization of Territorial Defense in the mid 1980s, through to the ‘Yogurt Revolution,’ trampling of the SFRY Constitution, quasi-legal attempt at Kosovizing Croatia and the rest of then Yugoslavia, and of course the Rampart (RAM) Plan, with the explicit order to target civilians to demoralize ‘enemies,’ and overtly stated goal of creating a Greater Serbia at the expense of most of Croatia and the whole of B&H, with access to Croatia’s coastline.

Among the more vocal propagandists in the front of the charge was none other than Croatia’s current Minister of Foreign Affairs, and unofficial Shadow Foreign Minister of Serbia, Vesna Pusic, sister of UJDI (Association for Yugoslav Democratic Initiative) co-founder and current GOLJP head (Citizens Committee for Human Rights), Zoran Pusic.

Vesna Pusic helped form Erasmus Gilda in 1993, a declaratively pro-European organization, along with Slavko Goldstein, and other post-1990 self-styled “human rights” activists (the systematic violations of human rights before 1990 was apparently not a problem to them as they were silent and remain silent about them) and disinformation luminaries who all just happened to be against Yugoslavia joining the European Community prior to the first free elections in 1990, because the EC was a free market economy.

Along with the previously mentioned outlets like Arkazin, Feral Tribune and others regurgitating Belgrade’s propaganda on a weekly basis, Erasmus gatherings, published articles and their eventual failed magazine that generous USAID funds could not save, touted the line and gave the anti-fact agenda political legitimacy as they included many academics who rose to prominence within Tito’s Yugoslavia.

Here was yet another case of foreign aid subsidizing another controlled opposition – who foreign governments would openly put into power in 2000, and again in 2011.

The main propaganda agendas of these foreign-subsidized controlled opposition fronts, and foreign-financed controlled opposition political actors, as well as Belgrade’s propaganda, was during the war and remains the following, in no particular order:

  •  Push the “all sides are guilty” and “civil war” lie to spin Serbia’s aggression and the moral responsibility of the Western powers that overtly and tacitly supported Serbia’s aggression diplomatically and through domestic media filters and planted stories;
  • Equate Croatia’s defensive war effort with Serbia’s offensive aggression;
  • Equate Croatia’s defense of B&H in 1992 and the HVO’s defense of B&H Croats in the face of Serbian and later Muslim aggression with Serbia’s aggression against Croatia;
  • Push the Karadjordjevo fable and “Tudman divided B&H” myth;
  • Criminalize any and all symbols of Croatian statehood (the Kuna currency, Croatia’s Grb, etc.) by tying them to the Independent State of Croatia (WWII NDH);
  • Look for “Ustashe,” if you can’t find them, make them up;
  • Blow any Croatian backlash or isolated criminal act during wartime out of proportion and tie it to the highest levels of power while entirely ignoring the top-down, bottom-up systematic war crimes by the YPA/Yugoslav Peoples Army and VRSK/Army of Serbian Republic of Krajina (see the Zec family politicization since 1991, with the recent street naming ruse);
  • Lobby for “Krajina” political legitimacy at Western embassies and in Western capitals while domestically attack the government for being weak for not defeating “Krajina” while simultaneously claiming the “Krajina” is too strong to fall and Serbia will get involved if Croatia operationally engages it, implication being that it is better to leave it alone and recognize it;
  • Criminalize the Homeland War, all Generals, and all Veterans, with phrases like “turbo-Generals,” “Oluja/Storm was ethnic cleansing, “fake veterans,” “drunk veterans,” “gambling veterans,” etc. – anything to do with the Homeland War, the men who led it or the men who fought in it must be all negative, all the time with qualifiers regarding “our crimes” at any opportunity, all under the banner of “de-Tudmanization”;
  • Sack competent wartime and intelligence commanders whenever possible;
  • Legitimize ICTY political prosecutions and show trials of Croats from Croatia and B&H and applaud all politically-charged, logical acrobatic convictions based off of cherry-picked misquotes out of context, evidence suppression, and constructing events entirely out of chronological order;
  • Stay silent on Momcilo Perisic, Franko Simatovic and Jovica Stanisic’s acquittals, as well as no ICTY convictions of any Army of B&H commanders for the systematic war crimes and gunpoint ethnic cleansing of Croats in Central Bosnia and North Herzegovina between October 1992 and the1994 Split Agreement;
  • Paint Franjo Tudjman as a warmonger and authoritarian; compare to Ante Pavelic and Adolf Hitler when possible;
  • Push anything and everything Serbian in social and cultural spheres, no matter how low-brow (Baja Mali Knindza, Ceca, Cajke, how to be a Sponzorusa program on RTL, etc.);
  • Rehabilitate the cult of Tito and Communist Partisan “liberation” and infallibility myth at every corner, with if not daily then weekly stories referencing the “glories” of Tito and the Partisans, and make sure to have a weekly Yugonostalgia session on HRT by airing second rate, low-budget Yugoslav Communist political cinema;
  • Continually push WWII debates as if it was ongoing to cover up for failed policies and collapsing economy and no actual long-term political or economic strategy;
  • Frame all political and economic discourse about independent Croatia, especially the Homeland War, in a negative context while simultaneously framing any discussions about Tito’s Yugoslavia in a positive, at a minimum, neutral context;
  • Demand Croatia “come to terms with its crimes” of the 1990s while savagely denouncing any suggestion of the same in regards to the Communists’ crimes during and after WWII, or that the Serbian community in Croatia do the same in regards to both the 1990s, WWII, and the first Yugoslavia;
  • Ridicule the very idea of lustration laws being passed; label it “nationalist” to nip it in the bud;
  • Do everything possible to drive a wedge between Croatia’s diaspora and the Homeland;
  • Demand that Croatia abide by every single UN, EU, or ICTY demand, no matter how idiotic or how much of a double-standard, especially when they negatively affect Croatia’s sovereignty, national interests, and national security while simultaneously using all means available in defending the CCP (KPH/Communist Party of Croatia) and UDBa Octopus (Yugoslav Secret Police) at the expense of diplomatic relations with Germany and the EU;
  • Criminalize the very thought of Herceg Bosna or any Croatian legal or political equality, economic freedom, local self rule, or even following the Dayton Agreement as was agreed upon, and always support Sarajevo’s line, or remain silent on the burning Croat question;
  • Push a pro-London, anti-Berlin and anti-Vienna policy – sign a strategic partnership with the one state that comes in second to Serbia only in terms of damaging Croatia politically and diplomatically (UK) once foreign subsidies and foreign subsidized (and facilitated in foreign media) propaganda bring you to power;
  • Ignore Central Europe, never speak of the Visegrad Four (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary), and speak only of the “region” to Croatia’s south, not to its north, northeast or west – never even entertain the idea of making the Visegrad Four the Visegrad five, and never demand Serbia meet the same criteria and extra criteria Croatia had to fulfill for EU entry;
  • Accept money from anyone, including those “capitalist pig” governments who were supposed to submit to the superiority of Yugoslav Socialist Self-Management;
  • Denounce, decry and try to legally bar the right of Croatia’s Diaspora and Croats in Herceg Bosna to vote while not demanding the same for Croatian citizens of Serbian origin in RS (Serbian Republic) and Serbia, who do not pay Croatian taxes – organize bus transport for them to vote in Croatia;
  • Thwart any meaningful investment with bizarre regulations, a monstrous tax code, bureaucracy, and torpedo any business investment, including sweet-heart deals, at the strategic and state level through incompetence if they conflict with Anglo-American business or geopolitical interests (see the Qatar debacle).
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About the author: Ante Horvat was born in the USA in 1970′s. He has recently moved to live permanently in Croatia and although spending most of his life in the USA he had made several temporary residence visits to Croatia during that time. His education and professional development in history and international relations also spans across the two continents. He is an active observer of and participant in the development of democracy in Croatia since the early 1990’s and its correlation with the developed Western democracies.

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Part VI – The next installment will look the new and subtle English-language information warfare against Croatia, subsidized by allies no less.

 

 

Related Posts:

PART IV:  http://inavukic.com/2014/04/08/psychological-operations-and-information-warfare-against-croatia-and-croats-part-iv/
PART III: http://inavukic.com/2014/04/05/psychological-operations-and-information-warfare-against-croatia-and-croats-part-iii/
PART II: http://inavukic.com/2014/04/02/psychological-operations-and-information-warfare-against-croatia-and-croats-part-ii/
PART I: http://inavukic.com/2014/03/30/psychological-operations-and-information-warfare-against-croatia-and-croats-part-i/

Croatia: Ironically The Real Rescuer Of These Jews, Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac Still Awaits Recognition As Righteous – Dr Esther Gitman

Blessed Alojzije (Aloysius) Stepinac Oil painting Croatian Church Chicago

Blessed Alojzije (Aloysius) Stepinac
Oil painting Croatian Church Chicago

It has been over two years since the release of Dr Esther Gitman’s book “When Courage Prevailed: The Rescue and Survival of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia 1941-1945” (see links to the book in the left margin of this blog website Home page).

Her research findings have confirmed that Croatia’s WWII Archbishop Aloysius (Alojzije) Stepinac was in fact a prolific and an utterly dedicated saviour of Jews during WWII days of the Holocaust and not the “Nazi collaborator” that the Yugoslav communist regime convicted him of after the war, serving him with a trial at which he had no right to a defense. It is in the latter context that Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac had been presented via the communist propaganda as a “symbol” of the Holocaust that occurred in Croatia. Despite that, the Catholic Church had not stood idle for the truth all the years and Stepinac was beatified and pronounced Blessed by Pope John Paul II on 3 October 1998.

As the time approaches when Stepinac is to be canonised (declared a Saint of the Catholic Church) there were a couple unsavoury activities in the Croatian media last week, evidently including some Jewish persons who in this way pander to a few but perhaps “powerful” Jews connected to the communist movement of the past and apparently the present. It was noted in a couple of brief articles from Croatia that certain Jewish persons from Croatia were intending to protest to the Vatican regarding the pending canonisation of Aloysius Stepinac! The reasoning behind this was presented in that while Aloysius Stepinac was the Archbishop of the WWII Croatian Catholic Church multitudes of Serb Orthodox and Jewish people were forced to convert to Catholicism! The operative lie in this propaganda is contained in the word “forced”.

To that I say: Read and grasp the truth in the independent findings on the matter by Dr Esther Gitman! Here is a sample (translated) of actual secret memos sent during the War by Stepinac to the parish priests in Croatia:

When you are visited by people of the Jewish or Eastern Orthodox faith, whose lives are in danger and who express the wish to convert to Catholicism, accept them in order to save human lives. Do not require any special religious knowledge from them, because the Eastern Orthodox are Christians like ourselves, and the Jewish faith is the faith from which Christianity draws its roots. The role and duty of Christians is, in the first place to save people. When this time of madness and of savagery passes, those who would convert out of  conviction will remain in our church, while the others, after the danger passes, will return to their church.”

On Wednesday 19 February 2014 I had the privilege to organise a media event and presentation by Dr Esther Gitman on the good that Aloysius Stepinac did during WWII in rescuing and saving Jews. The event was held in the NSW Public Library, Mitchell Wing, next door to the NSW Parliament House.

It has been my privilege to organise this very successful event as yet another milestone in Dr Gitman’s path to spreading the researched and, indeed, personally lived truth of the Rescue and Survival of Jews in WWII Croatia. While her authoritative and detailed research findings have given her (and the world) factual insights into the great deeds humans are capable of carrying out amidst extreme adversities and horror, such as the Holocaust was in WWII, her findings and revelations of actions that Archbishop, Cardinal and now Blessed Aloysius Stepinac carried out in order to save the lives of many Jews and others during WWII have been and still are the beacon of light that shines upon the truth.

Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac was a true humanitarian who lived a horrible path to a horrible death, being wrongly convicted by the communists of the former Yugoslavia as Nazi-collaborator soon after WWII. As we see through Dr Gitman’s work it is never too late to correct the wrongs with truth, however a certain part of this world that still thrives on lies fabricated by the Yugoslav communist regime may still need time to adjust to the realisation that when it comes to Aloysius Stepinac they have been fed on terrible lies.  Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Here is the full presentation by Dr Esther Gitman in Sydney, Australia, 19th February 2014.

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Dr Esther Gitman In Sydney, Australia, 19 February 2014

Dr Esther Gitman
In Sydney, Australia, 19 February 2014

Good day, Dobar Dan . It is a privilege and honor to be with you here in Sydney, I would like to thank Ms. Ina Vukic, editor of the blog Croatia, War and the Future, among others, for organizing this event, and to the Croatian ambassador Dr. Damir Kusen for attending today. I would be remiss not to acknowledge with gratitude the rescuers and the survivors who with trepidation told me of their hardship, agonies and also of their successes. Last but not least to you Ladies and Gentlemen: Thank you for coming!

For years I felt blessed for surviving and in time I took my survival for granted, failing to think of those who risked their own lives on our behalf.  It was only when my daughter, a mother of six, began asking questions about the fate of our family during WWII did realize that I had no answers for her and that those who could’ve enlightened us were no longer with us.

I turned to history books but all I gathered was that from 1941 to1945 approx. 30,000 Jewish men women and children were annihilated in Independent State of Croatia, NDH, a truly catastrophic episode in my people’s history, but at the same time I realized that scholarly books and articles had absolutely nothing documented or written about the 9,500 Jews who survived, among them were my mother and I.

Knowing little about the situation in the dismembered Yugoslavia I searched for personal stories and slowly I gathered several accounts of rescue chief among them Albert Maestro’s testimony given in 1945 to the National Commission for the Verification of crimes committed against the Jews. He spoke about the Ustashe perpetrators and their crimes but he never forgot to thank the villagers from Jasenovac and Krapje who helped him daily and others to survive by dropping some food and encouraging words. I also researched the Internet and found names of Croatian individuals who were entitled as “Righteous Among the Nations” by the State of Israel. In 1999, I decided to undertake the almost unimaginable task a Ph.D. in Jewish History with a focus on the rescue of Jews in Croatia. My mind was made up: I’ll write about the rescue of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia, which comprised also Bosnia and Herzegovina during the years 1941-1945. In 2002 on a one-year Fulbright fellowship I arrived in Zagreb, and without a minute to waste I spent my days in the National Archives where I reviewed thousands of documents and copied 5,000 that were relevant to rescue.

Ivo Politeo’s Files

Among the names of rescuers that were frequently mentioned was the name of Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac.

In the following I shall provide only a small selection from Stepinac’s sermons, letters, and actions, which will demonstrate his courageous battle against the foreign occupiers and their local collaborators. A large number of the documents were collated by Dr. Ivo Politeo, Stepinac’s defense lawyer, who compiled hundreds of documents, which had to demonstrate his innocence; since the outcome of the trial was predetermined these documents were never presented.

Today however they are an invaluable source for understanding Stepinac’s guiding principle regarding the conduct of leaders and the society in peace and in war time.

Stepinac, like most Croats yearned for a free Croatia and on Oct. 3, 1938, he described to students of the University of Zagreb the kind of country he envisioned: “Love towards one’s own nation cannot turn a man into a wild animal, which destroys everything and calls for reprisal, but it must ennoble him, so that his own Nation secures respect and love of other nations.”

On April 17, 1941, Ante Pavelic, the Ustashe leader entered Zagreb accompanied by 200-300 of his loyal Ustashe troops. The question before Stepinac was whether a Croatian state under Nazi auspices would be such a nation? Although in doubt, Stepinac, according to Hague and Geneva conventions paid a visit to Pavelic, and on April 29, 1941 in the Katolički list (Catholic news) Stepinac expressed his elation over the freedom Croatia had gained once the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was dismembered, stating: “There is no one among you who has not been a recent witness to the momentous events in the life of the Croatian nation …No reasonable person can condemn and no honest one can cast blame, because the love towards one’s own people is inscribed in the human heart by God and His commandment.”

To the sorrow of many his elation was short lived once Nazi Germany assigned the first tasks to NDH (Independent State of Croatia), the implementation of the Final Solution of the Jewish Question in NDH based on Nazi racial ideology and the murder of many dissidents, Stepinac no longer rejoiced.

On June 1941, two months into the war when persecutions of Jews and other innocent people were relentless, Stepinac took a bold and dangerous step.

He went personally to see Pavelic, and upon entering his office Stepinac declared: It is God’s command “Thou Shalt not Kill!’ And without another word he turned around and left his office. The authorities’ took from him the Katolički list and allowed him to speak freely only within the confines of his Church. Nevertheless his voice was heard, the crowds packed the Zagreb Cathedral because “The people yearned to hear the only voice, which even the dreaded Gestapo could not silence. His voice was raised time and again against the pagan doctrines of totalitarianism. His was a particularly high conception of authority and the rule of law.” The sermons were spread, recounted, copied and propagated in thousands and thousands of copies among the people and even penetrated to the liberated territory.

A Mutiny On the Judeo-Christian Ethics

Stepinac was aware that the Nazis aimed to establish a new world hierarchy based on race, where the Germans were the master, race the Slavs were subhuman and the Jews were mere organic matter. Their ideology was crystallized in the slogan:
Today Germany belongs to us, tomorrow the entire world. The solution offered by SS leader Heinrich Himmler summed it up:  “The only way to solve the social problem is for one lot to kill the others and take their land.”  This Nazi motto could not have contrasted more clearly with the teachings of Judeo-Christian Ethics: that all men were created equal, that they are endowed with equal rights and reason.  Whereas the Nazi doctrine claimed that life in this world is worthless and meaningless except in so far as it consists of the self realization of an elite of the strong and the powerful—who employ the common people as mere instruments of their own will. The Nazi ideology conflicted with both the teachings of Christ and the Messianic vision–of ultimate universal reconciliation when all shall become one true community, when nation shall not lift up sword against nation and when justice shall rule the world.

Archbishop Stepinac abhorred the pagan Nazi ideology, and although he had an option to leave Croatia he chose to remain with his people and fight the evil doctrine in his own country.

Over the four years’ war from 1941 to 1945 one main theme was woven in most of Stepinac’ sermons and letters: “every man, of whatever race or nation, whether he has studied in the universities of the civilized centers of Europe or hunts his food in the virgin forests of Africa, whether they be hated Jews or proud Aryans carries on himself equally the stamp of God the Creator and possesses inalienable rights which must not be taken from him nor arbitrarily limited by any human power. Each of them has the right to marriage, the right of physical life, the right to the life of the soul, the right to a religious education, the right to use material goods in so far as not contrary to just laws which protect the interests of the whole community; and many other rights. All people wherever and whoever they are have equal rights to say: ‘Our Father which art in Heaven’.“ Every violation of these rights of the human person can only have evil consequences.”  Thus “the Church stands for that order which is as old as God’s commandment. We stand not for that order which has been written on perishable paper, but in human conscience by the finger of the living God.

Stepinac Protest Letters to NDH Leaders

Stepinac expressed his concern to the NDH leaders that their inhumane policies against the Jews, took a totalitarian character which threatened to inflict great damage on the Croatian people and the Catholic Church, he stated:

Due to the malicious conduct of Pavelic’s regime, the  Croatian people would have to bear full responsibility for Ustase conduct as well as for the growth of communism.“

The loss in human lives during the war period was distasteful and morally repugnant to many Croats who continued to believe that their new government was decent but misinformed, and thus it was their duty as citizens to let them know of the injustices committed against Jews.

In the Croatian National Archives I found 420 petitions on behalf of Jews, signed by thousands, which indicate that people expected an answer from their government, the following 3 examples will demonstrate how much the people cared. Stepinac’s letters, like those of his parishioners, were sent to both Ante Pavelic and the Interior Minister Andrija Artukovic in which he raised a few issues.

First, Stepinac declared that his holiest duty as a representative of Catholic Church, was to raise his voice against interference of the state into questions of lawful marriages that are insolvable, regardless of the racial affiliation. If it uses physical power, then the state is perpetrating ordinary violence.

Second, he also protested the implementation of the anti-Semitic legislation, stating: …But to take away all possibility of existence from members of other nations or races and to mark them with the stamp of shame is already a question of humanity and of morals…Why treat in this way those who are members of another race through no fault of their own? …Do we have the right to commit this outrage…? He asked the leaders to give appropriate orders so that Jewish laws and others similar to them are executed in such a way that the human dignity and personality of every man is respected.”

He went on to say, that capital punishment inflicted on innocent people was contrary to Catholic teachings, explaining that “the system of shooting hundreds of hostages for a crime, when the person guilty of the crime cannot be found, is a pagan system which only results in evil.”  He often emphasized that it can bring us no glory if it is said of us that we have solved the Jewish problem in the most radical way that is to say, the cruelest.”

Stepinac knew that the policies implemented originated abroad, therefore he wrote to Pavelic stating: “…But if there is here [in the anti-Jewish policy] the interference of a foreign power in our internal and political life, I am not afraid if my voice and my protest carry even to the leaders of that power; because the Catholic Church knows no fear of any earthly power, when it is a question of atheistic ideologies infected much of the world with hate” and that: “The danger in adopting such ideologies is that many, in the name of Catholicism, may become victims of passion and of hatred, thus forgetting the most beautiful characteristic trait of Christianity, the law of love.”

Stepinac’s Humanitarian and non-Political Stand

The Nazis were aware of Stepinac’s political views regarding the racial laws well before their occupation of Yugoslavia. His charitable activities began in 1936 when thousands, mostly Jewish refugees from Austria and Germany, were fleeing to Nazi free territories.

Their plight and misery prompted Stepinac to send several requests for refugee support to his parishioners. In 1938 Stepinac sent a letter to 298 eminent Croats requesting financial contributions as a demonstration of their Christian obligation.

Four years later Glaise von Horstenau, the German Plenipotentiary in Zagreb recorded in his diary: “Archbishop Stepinac [of Croatia] and his entourage are friendly to the Jews, (judenfreundlich), and therefore enemies of National Socialism. The same Archbishop had been the protector of Jewish émigrés under the Yugoslav regime, although he paid no attention to the misery of his own people. …“ (We know that this was a slanderous remark aiming to drive a wedge between the Archbishop and his people.)

In several circulars between 1935 and 1943 Stepinac enjoined his clergymen to avoid political involvement. Although he was successful with the clergy in his own Archdiocese and with older priests, he continued his efforts to influence the others by frequently quoting the Apostle Paul, “No one who fights for God involves himself in the affairs of this life so that he may gratify Christ.“ Although he fought hard to keep the name of the Church clean he learned that the news reaching the outside world was that he and the clergy in Croatia had failed in their moral leadership…”in the midst of the German-inspired murderous acts.”

Although Stepinac was grieved, he replied that he did not seek transitory earthly acclaim but that he could speak of the things as they happened, and leave judgment to Christian justice and conscience.

The Germans and the Ustashe destroyed our people’s bodies. Their gory work was made     easier by those in our midst who are false of heart. Among the false, to our shame, were Catholic priests in isolated localities, who as individuals used their holy robes for treacherous political purposes. They were no longer men of God, acting authority of the church. They represented nothing, no one but their own warped desires, whited by what they saw with their diseased eyes of German power and glory.

Nazis’ Opinions of Archbishop Stepinac

Hans Helm, the German police attaché in Zagreb, sent daily reports to Berlin.
They included the news he received from agents in the field and reports based on his own observations in the cities. Berlin had many complaints that made Archbishop Stepinac a persona non-grata, for example, on December 29, 1941, Helm wrote to the Security Police: “We were informed all along about political meddling of the Cleric [Stepinac] in the internal affair of the country. He has connections in every department, most specifically education and he controls the media…The most significant news are that the Church in Croatia has contacts with London and the Yugoslavian Government in Exile. This approach undertaken by the Church could be viewed as contrary to the interests of the Third Reich and of the NDH. Our objective is to eliminate the influence of the Cleric [Stepinac]…“.

On August 28, 1942, Helm again informed Berlin of Stepinac’s hostile conduct towards National Socialism and the Ustashe, although he acknowledged that some lower level clergy cooperated with the Ustashe. Helm emphasized that Stepinac, frequently spoke in his sermons about “Mir” (peace), a subject which was likely to demoralize the fighting men. Helm also frequently addressed the subject of “Mixed Marriages” in Croatia. He argued that since they were acceptable to the upper echelon of the Ustashe hierarchy, several of whom were married to Jewish women, they had little motivation to control the Archbishop and the masses on this subject.

On, March 25, 1943, Helm again wrote to Berlin, this time addressing the SS chief in charge of police, informing him: on the problem of Mixed Marriages in Croatia: “The Croatian government instructed that all the Jews be registered, including those involved in mixed marriages. As a result of this order some Jews turned to Archbishop Stepinac for protection. The Archbishop promised full protection, sending a memorandum to this effect to the Pope. …As a sign of protest, Stepinac declared he would close for a period all the churches in Croatia and let the bells ring continuously. Although not as yet confirmed, the Pope intends to take up this matter with the Fuehrer. Despite the Helm’s protests, it is clear that most partners in mixed-marriages and their offspring survived.

Poglavnik! (Leader!)

Do not allow these irresponsible and unwelcome elements (the Nazis) violate the true welfare of our people. The violation of the law of nature in the name of the people and the state will bring vengeance to the people and even the state. The bitterness that will spread the spirit of retribution is being born within the country, while from outside the enemy attacks our moral values.

Archbishop Stepinac Acts on Behalf of the Jewish Community in Zagreb

Despite threats on his life, Stepinac maintained close contact with the Jewish Community in Zagreb and also in Osijek. The letters of the Chief Rabbi of Croatia, Dr. Miroslav Shalom Freiberger, attest to their mutual respect. Stepinac was deeply moved at the destruction of the main Jewish synagogue in Zagreb, in his grief he exclaimed: “A House of God, of whatever religion, is a holy place. Whoever touches such a place will pay with his life. An attack on a House of God of any religion constitutes an attack on all religious communities.“ After this incidence we learn that whenever a problem arose which the Rabbi could not resolve he turned to the Archbishop. In his 1945 testimony to the National Commission Hinko Mann, a Jewish survivor, stated:

Archbishop Stepinac was called to act on behalf of the Jews many times; he always responded favorably but, often, his interventions were unproductive, because he was considered a ’Jew lover’ by the regime. There was a major conflict of interest between Stepinac’s position and that of the Ustashe and the Gestapo who had different objectives.”

On December 6, 1943 German agents entered the “Lavoslav Schwarz” home for the Jewish elderly in Zagreb and ordered the residents to vacate the building within ten days or be deported. At the request of the Jewish Community, Alojzije Stepinac organized the transfer of 58 elderly Jews to the archbishopric’s building in Brežovica, where he was one of their frequent visitors; they remained there till 1947. Dr. Amiel Shomrony (alias Emil Schwartz), the personal secretary of the Chief Rabbi, recalled how in July 1943, he was sent on an errand to the Archdiocese where he was told of impending roundups of all Jews in Zagreb. In light of this news, Stepinac extended his invitation to the Rabbi and his family to seek shelter in the Archdiocese. Despite the gracious invitation, the Rabbi chose to be deported with his congregation, however he asked Stepinac to take his library for safekeeping. After the war the library was returned intact to the Zagreb Jewish Community.

Closing Remarks

With the declassification of U.S. Intelligence Records under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act of 1998, many one-sided perspectives are slowly being replaced by more nuanced versions of the role Alojzije Stepinac played in the drama of WWII.
My own research demonstrates that Stepinac forcefully denounced the violation of human rights through legislation directed against Jews, Serbs and Roma and that he at every opportunity demanded a return to the Law of God. In 1941, when two of his priests and six nuns whose origin was Jewish were absolved from wearing the yellow Star of David, intended by the Nazis as a badge of shame, 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.

Alojzije Stepinac had a choice to lead a different type of life but his conscience and his strong belief in the inalienable rights of each person to live the life given to them by the Creator motivated him to stay in Zagreb and care for thousands of victims who depended totally on him – first and foremost his parishioners, but also the many others who were rejected by the Nazi and the Ustashe regimes: like the 58 Jewish elderly the orphaned children, the women involved in mixed marriages, the Greek deportees for whom Stepinac came to the train station and gave them water and first aid kits, and for the many individuals who found temporary shelter in his Palace. For all his undertakings Stepinac’s life was endangered on several occasions. He was spared only thanks to the love, admiration and the loyalty of his people.

I elected to tread into the uncharted territory of the rescue of Jews in NDH within the broader context of Holocaust history, not only because I am a survivor but because my findings convinced me that the rescue and survival of thousands of Jews in a very hostile environment and under complex conditions demonstrates to us and to future generations that dictators like Hitler Mussolini and Pavelic and their misguided philosophies, can be defeated.

My aim is not to minimize the role Ustashe played in the annihilation of seventy five percent of the Croatian Jews. Rather I want to challenge the widespread perception that the entire Croatian population was culpable as was advocated by Tito’s regime and his followers.

I must admit that during all these years of research two questions remain on my mind: How would I have behaved under an oppressive regime? Would I have had the courage exhibited by my mother who left behind home and family and fled with one thought in mind her responsibility to save me. And would I have the courage of Archbishop Stepinac and of thousands of rescuers while placing my own life and that of my family in harm’s way?

I have no answers to these questions, however I know that their lives and actions made a difference and should be a guiding light to us and to future generations.

May Archbishop Stepinac be awarded the Righteous Among the Nations, which he already is. He saved his church, his people and many of us.

Thank you – dr Esther Gitman, Sydney Australia, 17 February 2014

—————–
Addendum in Dr Esther Gitman’s presentation:

Even before the war ended Meir Tuval Waltmen and Chief Rabbi Herzong as representatives of the Jewish authorities in Palestine wrote to Archbishops Stepinac, with copies to the Holy See thanking with deep gratitude for his conduct and assistance to the Jews of Croatia especially to Hugo Kon the president and to Chief Rabbi Dr. Shalom Freiberger. After the war and during the trial hundreds of letters from dignitaries and media were sent to the media and the archdiocese praising him for his courage during the war, surprised from the outcome of the trial.

Jews Testify on Stepinac’s Behalf

In mid-1943, after the visit of Heinrich Himmler, Dr. Miroslav Dujic confided in Major General Stjepan Steiner, a fellow physician, how he and many other Jews who were under the personal protection of Stepinac were approached by him and told to leave Zagreb at once because his own life was in danger. Dr. Steine concluded our conversation by stating: there were many good people but there were two extraordinary Croatians who rescued hundreds of Jews during the war: Archbishop Stepinac and Dr. Ante Vuletic, who was responsible for the rescue of 142 Jewish physicians and approx. 600 members of their families.  Dr. Teodor Gruner related that when his father, Bernard Gruner, the chief Cantor of Zagreb, was taken to the central detention center, prior to his deportation to concentration camps. Word was sent to Stepinac and with his intervention, Gruner was rescued.

Count O’Brien, confirmed that hundreds of Jews he met from mid 1941 to late 1943 in Korcula  (my own place of rescue) told him that they had been saved by Archbishop Stepinac.

Olga Rajsek Neumann, a Catholic rescuer, described how her Jewish fiancé,  Zlatko Neumann, a Yugoslav army POW in Germany, asked her to rescue his nephew Danko Shtockhammer who lived in Pakrac Slovenia and bring him  to Zagreb.  On April 12, 1943 a neighbor reported to the Ustashe that Olga was harboring a Jewish child. Danko was caught for the third time and sent to detention. Olga turned for help to her parish priest who in turn approached Archbishop Stepinac for assistance.  After a few hours Danko was returned. To keep Danko safe, Stepinac saw that he was placed in a Catholic orphanage where he stayed until the end of the war. Olga Rajšek was named Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem, an honor which she rightfully deserves.

Ironically, the actual rescuer in this case—Archbishop Stepinac still awaits similar recognition. (Dr Esther Gitman)

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