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    Professorial Mea Culpa:


    By Johnny Byrne

Shameful revisionists like myself have tried to portray the Ustashe "Independent State Of Croatia" as simply another nazi occupied Quisling regime, like Holland or Norway. This is an odious fabrication, one of THE many I now deeply regret circulating.

In Croatia [in WWII] the indeginous fascist regime set about a policy of "racial purification" that went beyond even Nazi practices.

The above quote is from:
Encyclopaedia Britannica,
15th Edition (1991)
Macropaedia, Vol. 29, page 1111

In truth, the Independent State Of Croatia was a full-fledged Axis co-belligerent. It declared war on the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union on the 14th December 1941- and since a peace treaty was never signed, today's neo-fascist led Croatia, as the successor state, is technically still at war with those nations.

First, though, my confessional thoughts on the resurgence of today's Ustashe. A year ago, Tudjman's Croatia invaded the UN protected area of Krajina with overwhelming military force. Planned by the US military, which also trained and equipped the invading Croat armies, the result was the near total ethnic cleaning of hundreds of thousands of Serbs from homelands they had occupied for over half a millennium. And in circumstances of the utmost inhumanity and destructive savagery. This was the worst single witnessed and documented act of "ethnic cleansing".

From the beginning, Serbian villages, towns and homesteads were systematically torched and laid waste, a cleansing fury whose aim was to eliminate every vestige of Serb occupation; it included the systematic ploughing up of cemeteries, destruction of churches and even the levelling of the stone walls which had divided their land-holdings for centuries. Today, one year after the event, the torture, harassment and slaughter of those too old, infirm or just too stubborn to leave continues, and with the full knowledge of the US and the wider international community.

The gross nature and colossal extent of the war crimes and crimes against humanity which occurred in the Krajina appear not to have caused to slightest ripple at the Hague. To date neither Tudjman or his US patrons, especially Galbraith and the senior US military who nurtured, planned, trained, equipped and help execute this military obscenity by their Croatian proxies have been indicted.

Such open support for a neo fascist regime seems inexplicable to those who grew up believing in the US as the land of the free and home of the brave. Yet here it is inflicting a ghastly criminal fate upon Serbian men women and children. The Serbs, remember, a people who never wished them anything but goodwill, and who fought and died alongside them in two world wars. The same Serb civilians whose fathers, mothers, uncles and grand-parents who often chose unasked to lay down their lives to help shot-down US airmen survive the efforts of wartime SS Croats and Muslims to capture and hand them over to the tender mercies of the German nazi masters.

Here is what one US President said about the bravery and fidelity of the wartime Serbs. It is the citation that accompanied the American award of the Legion Of Merit to Mihajlovic:

"General Dragoljub Mihajlovic distinguished himself in an outstanding manner as Commander-in-Chief of the Yugoslavian Armed Forces and later as Minister Of War by organising and leading important resistance forces against the enemy which occupied Yugoslavia from December 1941 to December 1944. Through the undaunted efforts of his troops, many United States airmen were rescued and returned safely to friendly control. General Mihajlovic and his forces, although lacking adequate supplies, and fighting under extreme hardships, contributed materially to the Allied cause and were materially instrumental in obtaining a final Allied Victory."

Signed: Harry S. Truman March 29, 1948

The US cannot disclaim responsibility for what happened once they had unleashed the Croats against the relatively undefended Krajina. Even a cursory understanding of recent Balkan history will confirm that Tudjman is the direct ideological successor of Pavelic's genocidal wartime Ustashe nazis. Now, as then, the aim is to create a 100% pure Catholic Croatian state. Today, however, unlike Pavelic, the megalomaniacal Tudjman doesn't need the services of death camps like Jasenovac. He has the full political, military and economic might of the US, the world's number one superpower, ever eager to help achieve his ends.

To remind ourselves of what Ustashe revisionists, including Franjo Tudjman, and US and German political apologists would wish us to forget about the nature of Croatian fascism...

At the end of the war, Tito's Communists took control of Yugoslavia. While there were some trials of war criminals, unlike Germany, Austria and the rest of nazi Europe, a thorough process of denazification never took place in Croatia. Communist ideology, and notions of Brotherhood and Unity, condemned any mention of the Ustashe genocide of the Serbs as a form of nationalist deviation.

Revisionists try to portray the Ustashe "Independent State Of Croatia" as simply another nazi occupied Quisling regime like Holland or Norway. In fact, the Pavelic Independent State Of Croatia declared war on the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union on the 14th December 1941 and was thus a fully-fledged Axis co-belligerent.

To illustrate the point: World War 2 Nazi Croatia had more men under arms proportionally than any other Axis state. They were made up of:

  • 160,000 regulars (Domobrani)
  • 75,000 Fascist Militia (Ustashe)
  • 15,000 police auxiliaries (Oruznici & Redarstvo)

In addition to its own units, Croatia provided more volunteers for the German Army than anyone else in Axis Europe. There were five full strength divisions, of which three were Wehrmacht (369th, 373rd, 392nd) and two Waffen SS (13th & 23rd).

There was also a "Croat Legion" of 7,000 volunteers serving under Germans on the Russian Front, and an anti-aircraft unit of 500 men in Austria. Like the Bosnian Muslim SS units and divisions (Handchar, Kama, etc.), these Croatian formations were officered by Germans. On their sleeves they had the checkerboard symbol, the same wartime nazi symbol is displayed on the Croatian flag today.

Croatia was able to raise substantial forces during World War II in order to fight for the Axis powers. These forces were a mixture of regular and paramilitary units, and by the end of 1941 there was a total of 114,000 soldiers under arms, with a further 38,000 soldiers in territorial units.

The above quote is from:
Uniforms of World War II,
By Peter Darman
Chartwell Books Inc., Edison, NJ, 1998
page 247

To compare the relatively small number of Serbian Quislings set up by the nazis to help administer the occupied, virtually dismembered Serbia, with the full blown Ustashe Independent State Of Croatia, is ludicrous. It's like saying that Quisling dominated Norway was as genocidal as nazi dominated Germany. While the Quislings of nazi Europe did their master's bidding, the bulk of the populations concerned were involved in active or passive resistance. That or they simply looked the other way. In Serbia's case, they mostly took to the hills in time honoured fashion.

It should also be said that of all the nazi states, Germany included, Croatia was most in need of thorough denazification. In Germany, the racist ideology of the nazis was sustained by the party alone. In Pavelic's Croatia it was maintained by the twin pillars of Church and State. Race and religion combined to terrifying effect. A convergence of a racist nationalism which aimed at a 100% ethnically pure state, and a fascist Croatian church with a parallel policy of a 100% pure Catholic Croatia.

It puts into context the deep involvement of the Croatian clergy, especially Franciscans, from the lowest to the highest, in the unspeakable crimes which immediately followed the founding of the state. These clerical fascists led roving bands which bestially slaughtered community after community of Orthodox Serbs. Many acted as butchers in death camps like Jasenovac. Priests, bishops, even the highest members of the Catholic Hierarchy were appointed to positions of authority at every level of the Ustashe state.

Catholics like myself can never sufficiently atone for what was done in the name of our church in wartime Croatia. It provides a nightmarish glimpse into the near contemporary heart of catholic darkness.

This is taken from "Katolicki Tjednik" (Catholic Weekly), Christmas 1941. The complete text in Croatian is found in "Magnum Crimen" by Victor Novak. It consists of 26 verses of praise to Pavelic. The poet was one of the highest officers of the Croatian Catholic church:

Ode to Pavelic
(Archbishop Sharitch of Bosnia)

Embracing thee was precious to the poet
as embracing our beloved Homeland.
For God himself was at thy side, thou good and strong one,
so that thou mightest perform thy deeds for the Homeland...

And against Jews, who had all the money,
who wanted our souls,
who built a prison round our name,
the miserable traitors...

Dr Ante Pavelic! the dear name!
Croatia has therein a treasure from Heaven.
May the King of Heaven accompany thee, our Golden Leader!

The combined ideology of a fascist Croatian church and state spelled doom for near three million Orthodox Serbs, their religion and clergy. Only their extermination and/or conversion would satisfy a genocidal obsession to create a 100% ethnically pure Catholic Croatia.

In the words of Dr Milovan Zanitch, Minister Of Justice, who declared on June 2nd 1941:

"This State, our country, is only for the Croats, and not for anyone else. There are no ways and means which we Croats will not use to make our country truly ours, and to clean it of all Orthodox serbs. All those who came into our country 300 years ago must disappear. We do not hide this our intention. It is the policy of our State, and during its promotion we shall do nothing else but follow the principles of the Ustashi."

The policy being to physically slaughter a million, convert another million and pack the rest off to the tender mercies of the Germans in nazi occupied Serbia, or slave labour camps. For State and Church this policy served a dual purpose - to destroy once and for all the presence of the abominable Serb and his equally abominable Orthodox religion in Croatia.

All the immensely influential Catholic press came out in favour of Pavelic: Here's a sample (Vjesnik Pocasne Straze Srca Isusova, issues numbers 5 and 6, 1941)

"In the early spring the Croatian people experienced their resurrection at the time of Christ's resurrection. The great son of the Croatian people (Pavelic) returned and gave them their liberty and ancient rights. And this is also the work of God; the Lord did it all and that is why it is strange to our eyes."

And again - (in Nedjelja, the voice of the influential Crusader movement, June 6th, 1941) "Christ and the Ustashe and Christ and the Croatians march together through history.."

And later, as the genocide got under way, in the village of Tramosnica, Catholic priest Ante Klaric harangued his congregation thus:

"You are old women and you should put on skirts, for you have not yet killed a single Serb. We have no weapons and no knives and we should forge them out of old scythes and sickles, so that you can cut the throats of Serbs whenever you see them."

Dr Hermann Neubacher, Hitler's Minister Plenipotentiary For The Balkans (and surely no friend of the Serbs) writes in his book, "Special Assignment In The Southeast" 1940-45, pg 18.).

"... a Croatian crusade of destruction directed against the Orthodox Serbs erupted, a crusade that belongs among the most brutal mass murder undertakings in the entire history of the world.... (later pg. 31)... The prescription for the Orthodox Serbs issued by the leader and Fuhrer of Croatia, Ante Pavelic, was reminiscent of the religious wars of the bloodiest memory: One third must be converted to Catholicism, another third must be expelled, and the final third must die. The last part of the program has been carried out. When the leaders of the Ustashe movement claim that they have slit the throats of a million Serb Serbs, including infants, women and old people, that is, in my opinion, a boastful exaggeration. On the basis of the reports that were submitted to me, I estimate the number of the defenceless murder victims to be three quarters of a million."

And the German Intelligence chief for the Southeast, Dr Wilhelm Hoettl (alias Walter Hagen), who writes in his book, "The Secret Front", pg. 238)...

"A truly murderous hatred was aimed at the Serbs and the Jews who had just been officially proclaimed outlawed. Already in the Summer of 1941 the horrendous atrocities have assumed unheard of proportions... Since following an old tradition, being Catholic was equivalent to confessing to the Catholic faith, and being Serbian followed the profession of Orthodoxy, they now began to convert the Orthodox to Roman Catholicism under duress. These forced conversions were actually a method of Croatisation."

Mile Budak - announcer of the infamous "Kill a million Serbs, convert a million, etc..." is quoted in "The Silence Of Pope Pius XII" (by Carlo Falconi, (Bernard Wall, London, 1970).

"The Serbs, Budak observed: "are not Serbs, but people brought here from the East by the Turks... as the plunderers and refuse of the Balkans... God is one, and the people that HE governs is also one: and this is the Croatian people... It would be as well for them to know our motto: "EITHER SUBMIT OR GET OUT" (author's emphasis)

Budak's statements are echoed today by Tudjman who describes Muslims and Serbs as Eastern people in need of "Europeanisation". What is genuinely offensive is that Tudjman's government has named a public place after this Budek, a genocidal criminal.

I should make clear that some senior Croatian clerics were appalled by what was being done in the name of the Catholic church by Pavelic and his racist butchers, lay and clergy. In November 1941, Bishop Misic wrote to Archbishop Stepinac, the highest church dignitary in the Croatian Hierarchy. Bishop Misic writes...

"... a reign of terror has come to pass... men are captured like animals. They are slaughtered, murdered; living men are thrown off cliffs (as in Medjugorje). The under prefect of Mostar, Bajic, a Muslim has said - he should keep silent and not utter such things - that at Ljubinje in a single day 700 schismatics were thrown to their graves. From Mostar and Capljina a train took six carloads of mothers, young girls, and children ten years old to the station... they were led up the mountains and mothers together with their children were thrown alive off the precipices..."
(Stella Alexander, "The Triple Myth - A Life Of Archbishop Stepinac", East European Monographs, Boulder No. CCXXV1 (NY 1987, p. 28).

These statements were made by people who were no friends of the Serbs. They were also witness to the events they describe. The evidence from every authoritative quarter is simply overwhelming. What is described above happened and is documented, and it's only the tip of the iceberg.

The reality is that a ghastly combination of racist belief and clerical fascism combined to drench the land of wartime Croatia in the blood of the innocent. I'll spare readers the gruesome details, but Serbian children were a particular target of a genocidal fury which is simply beyond comprehension.

The favoured tools of mass executions were knives, axes, bats and torture. By comparison, the German nazis were mercifully surgical - the short shift with bullet and rope. The scale and depravity of the mass slaughter was so bad that often the Germans and Italians had to intervene - apart from humanitarian considerations, the demonic actions of the Ustashe were swelling the ranks of the Chetniks and Partisans with Yugoslavs of every ethnicity, and religion, especially the Serbs.

At first the mainly Serb partisans under the command of Tito made little impression on the German occupiers. But by May 1944 Tito's so-called "Liberation Army" had grown to 500,000 [ half a million! ] men, supplied from the pre-war Yugoslav Army and Allied air drops. By the beginning of January 1945 Tito had cleared Yugoslavia of most Axis troops and collaborators...

The above quote is from:
Uniforms of World War II,
By Peter Darman
Chartwell Books Inc., Edison, NJ, 1998
page 268

After the war, the Germans, Austrians and others apologised to their victims for what their Nazis did in the name of their states. Sadly the Croatian state has not yet apologised. In fact, it has used might and main to deny the extent and the nature of what was done by the Ustashe in the name of Croatia. One aspect of this denial is the persistent accusation that the Serbs were wartime genocidal nazis and the Croats their victims. This fantastic feat of role reversal continues today, with the Croatian state and many of it citizens claiming they were the true allies of the west, and the Serbian people, collective Nazi Allies and collaborators.

It's a monstrous lie, one which flies in the face of reason and the ocean of documented history of which those quoted here constitute but a droplet. However, the more it is made, the closer it focuses attention on Ustashe Croatia: a murderous anti-western regime which declared and waged war on the Allies, and whose volunteer armies swelled the ranks of the SS and the Wehrmacht. Those who deny its uniquely horrible character insult the memory of the countless victims it sacrificed on the altar of racist madness, and the sacrifice of the honourable and decent Croatians who died opposing it.

More dangerously, denial has paved the way for its resurgence. Today, the nationalistic ethos of Tudjman's government, its rhetoric, institutions and symbols of state have an all too familiar resonance. Its triumphalism, public honouring of Ustashe war criminals and near dictatorial control of the media inclines more to fascism than democracy. Domestic discrimination and intimidation against the Serbs, their religion and culture has an even more sinister wartime resonance.

But it's the nature and result of their brutal military actions in both Western Slavonia and the Krajina that should worry us most. It demonstrates beyond doubt that the present day Croatian state shares the primary objective of the wartime Ustashe - a racist obsession to create a 100% ethnically pure Catholic Croatia.

The corrosive effect of such ideologies on our common humanity is best illustrated by an encounter between two Croatians at Jasenovac, the gruesome WW2 Ustashe extermination camp. Vladko Macek, leader of the Croatian Peasant Party, was arrested and sent there six months after the NDH (Independent State Of Croatia) was founded. In his memoirs "In My Struggle For Freedom", (University Park, Penn. 1957) he describes it thus on p. 234 ...

"The camp had previously been a brick-yard and was situated on the embankment of the Sava River. In the middle of the camp stood a two storey house, originally erected for the offices of the enterprise... The screams and wails of despair and extreme suffering, the tortured outcries of the victims, broken by intermittent shooting, accompanied all my waking hours and followed me into sleep at night.

Macek noticed that one of the guards assigned to watch him round the clock crossed himself each night before going to sleep. Macek pointed out (p. 245) "... the monstrosity of his actions. I asked is he was not afraid of the punishment of God. "Don't talk to me about that," he said, "for I am perfectly aware what is in store for me. For my past present and future deeds I shall burn in hell, but at least I shall burn for Croatia."

Johnny Byrne

Posted on soc.culture.yugoslavia
August 22, 1996

Johnny Byrne is Irish writer, poet, TV director... He lives and works in Great Britain.

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Last revised: May 31, 2004