Copyright © Globus 1995
December 12, 1995
After 35 years, We Have Moved Our Ustashe Newspaper "Independent State
Croatia" from Toronto to Zagreb
After 35 years, We Have Moved Our Ustashe Newspaper "Independent State
Croatia" from Toronto to Zagreb
After the arrival of Vinko Nikolic's "Croatian Review" back to the homeland, another important emigration publication will begin to be published in Croatia. In the middle of December, the first homeland issue of "Independent State Croatia" [Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska, NDH, also a name of the Croatian fascist puppet state established during the WWII] will appear at the kiosks; "Independent State Croatia" is the publication of the Croatian Liberation Movement [Hrvatski Oslobodilacki Pokret, HOP] which was founded in emigration, in Buenos Aires by Dr. Ante Pavelic.
"We started publishing 'NDH' in 1959 in Chicago, with intention to one day continue the publication in free and independent Croatia," says Dr. Srecko Psenicnik, a former Ustashe official and Dr. Ante Pavelic's son-in-law, married to his younger daughter, Marija-Seka. "The HOP, which had been founded in 1956, was according to Poglavnik's wishes registered after the proclamation of the independence in Zagreb. At the HOP congress in Melbourne, in 1994, we decided that I, as president, return to Croatia in order to strengthen the HOP in the homeland and that the editorial board of 'NDH' be also eventually moved to Zagreb, since our organization needs a publication around which like-minded people can gather. The whole HOP organization has to return from the emigration to Zagreb.
This idea has been accepted by the president of the Independent Volunteers of Croatia [Nezavisni Dragovoljci Hrvatske or NDH], a restaurateur from Zagreb and a volunteer from the patriotic war, Zvonimir Trusic, who is jokingly, and sometimes even "seriously" referred to as Poglavnik [Dr. Pavelic's title in Ustashe terminology; roughly equivalent to Fuhrer for Hitler] by his collaborators. The abbreviation for their organization is also NDH.
"We wanted that our publication," says Zvonimir Trusic, "be a continuation of one of the papers which were published in Zagreb between 1941 and 1945, so that we don't start with issue number one, but to have continuity. Our goal was to demonstrate that the Croatian state existed before 1990, although some people want to convince us that that is not true. When we heard that Dr. Psenicnik intended to move 'NDH' from Toronto to Zagreb, we offered our services, so that 'NDH' will also be our publication.
"Men who have fought throughout their life for the independent Croatia are spread today all over the world, while those who have fought for Yugoslavia are very well organized. I think that the time has come for us to gather and raise our voice and that is why some of us will gather around this paper. All of us are Croatian nationalists and it is necessary to form a firm nucleus of Croatian pravasi [Croatian 19th century nationalist party] and nationalists and 'NDH' is an initial idea around which we have begun to gather on the same political platform.
"Through 'NDH' we will articulate our ideas and thoughts and make them available to the Croatian people; we will explain our patriotic ideas and goals, warn about the mistakes of the present authorities and demonstrate that it is possible and desirable to criticize the authorities without questioning the validity of the state. Also we will warn about all those movements and parties and steps which threaten the very foundations and survival of the Croatian state."
In the Zagreb issue of "NDH" all articles will be written using korijenski orthography and it will be published once a month. Dr. Psenicnik, "NDH" editor-in-chief and the president of the HOP, at the same time announces that he will revive the largest circulation NDH publication, "Hrvatski Narod"; after the death of Dr. Ante Pavelic in 1959, his personal secretary, Dr. Vrancic tried unsuccessfully to revive the publication in Buenos Aires. Only a few issues were published.
Zagreb Editorial Board of "NDH", according to its founders will have an impressive list of members; many well known emigrants, dissidents and declared Croatian nationalists will take part in its work.
Besides Dr. Psenicnik and Zvonimir Trusic, the board will have services of well-known Croatian poet and editor of the "Croatian Literary Paper" [Hrvatski Knjizevni List] in 1969, Zlatko Tomic, then a Rijeka publicist, leader of the Hrvatski Obrambeni Red, Branimir Peterner and Nikola Stedul, a long time Croatian political emigrant, the president of the Croatian Patriotic Movement [Hrvatski Drzavotvorni Pokret], and the victim of an assassination attempt by UDBA [former Yugoslav secret service] mercenary Vinko Sindicic, who is because of that still serving time in a British jail.
Former Croatian minister of internal affairs, Ivan Vekic, who ran at the recent elections for the lower house of the parliament as an independent candidate, will also write for the paper.
The organizers of the homeland editorial board of "NDH" emphasize with pride that the paper will with contributions and a blessing be supported by a well known Dominican priest Vjekosav Lasic, who was a personal confessor for Mirko Baresic and a great admirer of Bruno Busic.
Parliament representative of HSP and former political prisoner, Ivan Gabelica, will probably join the impressive list of the "NDH" collaborators.
It is especially interesting that the former "NDH" collaborators from Zagreb will also work for the homeland editorial board of the paper. Through all these years, these people have managed to send their articles from Zagreb, risking a long prison term in Stara Gradiska or Lepoglava and managing to hide their journalistic work from the former Communist authorities.
"Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska" begun to be published in the USA in 1959. A year later its editorial board moved to Toronto, Canada, where it staid until today. "NDH"'s circulation is 5,000 copies. The paper used to be sent to subscribers or many addresses in the former Socialist Republic Croatia.
"We can say for 'NDH' that it is one of the most important emigration publications, especially after 1985 and the demise of "Hrvatska" from Buenos Aires, which was at its start edited by the Poglavnik himself," continues Dr. Psenicnik. "Our paper will be a pravas paper, following the ideas of the HOP which was founded by Dr. Ante Pavelic. It will be an ideological paper based on the 10th April revolution [4/10/1941, founding of NDH]; we will fight for a historical truth about NDH and Dr. Ante Pavelic, refuting numerous lies about the Ustashe movement which accumulated and spread during the Communist rule," says Dr. Psenicnik.
You mentioned the 10th April revolution. Was it really a revolution?
Of course; it was a drastic transformation of the situation. A revolution doesn't have to be bloody. Every change of that kind is a revolutionary change. That is why we will demand that the 10th of April be celebrated, not as a commemoration of NDH, but as a day of Croatian statehood. Whether some like it or not, on that day the Croatian state was re-established. All the time I'm trying to make a distinction between the [Ustashe] regime and a state. If we didn't establish a state then, I think that the future generations would have objected that.
You are a direct heir of Dr. Ante Pavelic and his political work. Since today we already have several pravasi political parties in Croatia, do you think that the HOP can contribute something else to the Croatian political scene?
Yes, of course, since none of the todays pravasi parties is a real pravasi party. Paraga was the first one to compromise pravastvo since, inter alia, he reported the Croatian soldiers to the international organizations for something that, I'm certain, wasn't their fault; he also claimed the Croatia was a fascist country.
I also think that Ante Dapic cannot lead the HSP. The only authentic Pravas, besides us, is Dr. Ivan Gabelica. Although I think that Mladen Schwartz is capable and intelligent, I think that his ideas depart from those of Ante Starcevic [founder of Pravasi in 19th century and "the father of the nation"].
Anyway, the [Ustashe] regime and the proclamation of independence were rather problematic?
Fine, we can discuss the regime and its character, I'm not avoiding that. I am aware that, judging from a todays vantage point, we cannot be proud of a large number of our policies, but that was the time and we could not avoid a chance to achieve independence.
We tied our destiny to that of [Nazi] Germany because it was at the time a strong and influential world power and because that allowed us to reach our goal, independent Croatia.
As far as the regime is concerned, it was the way it was because of the war situation and its ideology. However, we were neither national socialists nor fascists. I do not condemn partisans for fighting on the other side, but I condemn them for destroying out state as such and fighting to bring Croatia back into Yugoslavia.
I would give their movement more legitimacy if they only fought against the Ustashe regime and for the preservation of the NDH.
Yes, but NDH also did not include Dalmatia, a part of Croatia in which out statehood and culture had been formed, because in the Rome contracts these territories were ceded to Italy.
The Rome contracts, no matter how disgraceful and questionable, were the price we had to pay for the independence and were imposed on us by the then world powers. That destiny has followed us until this day: just look at the Dayton agreement; Croatia had to give up Croatian Posavina [part of Bosnia-Hercegovina] because of the world powers.
Now it is easier to explain the circumstances which brought about the Rome contracts.
Do you really think that the Dayton agreement and the Rome contract can be compared...
Of course. They were both imposed on us by the world powers. We needed a state then and the painful surrender of Dalmatia to Italy was the price for our independence.
We cannot judge NDH using todays criteria. Germany was a great and strong power then, and numerous states were under its thumb, its collaborators and allies. However, no one has ever questioned the Romanian or Norwegian state because of that. On the other hand, this happened to Croatia.
The Dayton agreement is worrisome because for a first time Serbia crosses over the river Drina. For us, who have grown up with the map of NDH [incorporated Bosnia-Hercegovina and a part of Serbia (Srem)], that is worrisome.
We will attack the Dayton agreement in our paper. I understand that the agreement was imposed but we shouldn't have gotten to that point.
You participated in the signing of the Rome contracts and now you are attacking the Dayton agreement...
Yes, because I really know what is it like to be forced to follow somebody else's will. We could have learnt something from that, don't you agree? Today, Tudman shouldn't have reached that situation since the survival of the state was not questionable, as it was in 1941. The Rome contracts were the question of our survival, and today the survival of the state is not questionable.
If we hadn't signed the Rome contract we would have lost the state.
Was the signing of the Rome contracts greeted with demonstrations in Zagreb? How was it assessed by the media? Was there any criticism?
All publications were controlled by the state, and supported the contracts, no matter how painful that was for us. Demonstrations in front of the Italian embassy in Zagreb were organized, but were banned by the authorities in order not to worsen already tense relations with Italy.
Do you think that the Rome contracts prodded a lot of Dalmatians to join the Partisans?
Unfortunately, I have to agree with you and say that I totally understand them, since that was the only remaining option for them. I totally understand the Croats from Dalmatia and Istria who joined the partisans; I even think that that was better than if they joined the Italians whom we considered as the occupiers of our territory.
However, after the Italian capitulation on 6/9 1943, the Rome contracts became invalid and that territory was joined with the mother land.
Will you, as a direct heir to Dr. Ante Pavelic and the president of the HOP, apologize to the Jews in the first homeland issue of "NDH" for everything they went through in NDH?
I think that the Jews fared better in Croatia than in any other European state which was engulfed in the war. Mr. [Simon] Wiesenthal [a "Nazi hunter"] also knows that although he doesn't want to admit it.
There were several Jews in the Croatian government, Poglavnik's wife was of the Jewish origin, as well as the wife of Slavko Kvaternik.
Yes, but those cases do not confirm that the Jews in NDH did not have a tragic destiny. What about the racial laws?
Those racial laws were not applied as strictly as in other states who were the allies of Germany; they were imposed and extorted by the Germans. The times were like that. In order to ensure the survival of the state we had to compromise, but I am convinced that the Croatian Jews fared much better that their co-religionists in other European states.
Whenever we could we allowed people to legally leave for Italy and even the United States. I personally urged the then Minister of Internal Affairs to issue passports and visas.
Anyway, we demanded from the British government to apologize to the Croats because of their participation in the Bleiburg tragedy and never received a reply.
As a long-term emigrant, what do you think about the elections among the Croats who live outside Croatia?
I don't think that is right. The emigrants shouldn't vote for the Croatian parliament. If they want to vote let them come back.
I understand their wish to finally vote for a free Croatian parliament, but that is not right, since they live in other states.