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Without permission, for fair use only: 


by Dr. Reich,
the Director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

Published in "The Wall Street Journal", New York, April 3, 1996 

In recent years, Franjo Tudjman, the president of Croatia, has attempted to falsify the Holocaust's history. He has acknowledged that Jews were killed during World War II, but has insisted that the number of Jewish victims has been wildly exaggerated. President Tudjman has now escalated his assault on truth by announcing a plan to mix the bones of the Holocaust's victims in Croatia with those of its perpetrators. He wants, in short, to rewrite history with a shovel. For the sake of the future as well as the past, he must be stopped.

President Tudjman heads a new country carved out of the former Yugoslavia in 1991. A previous country called the Independent State of Croatia was set up during World War II after the German and Italian invasions and run by the facist Ustashe regime as a puppet state.

A central Ustashe aim was to cleanse Croatia of "foreign" elements. It established death and concentration camps in which it murdered hundreds of thousands of non-Croats: Serbs, Jews and Gypsies. The Germans encouraged the Ustashe forces to murder Croatia's Jews; the Germans then could focus their Holocaust operations on the Jews in the countries they controlled directly, thus achieving their goal that much more quickly of exterminating all of Europe's Jews.

It is this bit of history that President Tudjman has found inconvenient. He has falsely minimized the number of Serbs and Jews murdered by the Ustashe regime, as well as the number of Jews murdered by Nazi Germany in all of Europe. He has asserted that, altogether, only 900,000 European Jews were killed during the Holocaust, arguing that the generally accepted number - more than six times the one he cites - was based on "emotionally biased testimonials and exaggerated data". For such assertions, President Tudjman has been widely, sharply and justly rebuked. He has also stated that the main characteristics of Jews are "selfishness, craftiness, unreliability, miserliness, underhandedness and secrecy". Having been called an anti-Semite for expressing these sentiments, he has since apologized for them.

Now President Tudjman wants to go beyond the distortion of history. He has announced plans to mingle the bones of the victims of Croatia's Ustashe regime with another set of bones, including those of the regime's soldiers, many of whom were responsible for those victims' brutal deaths. The soldiers' bones would be disinterred from the soil of various cemeteries in Croatia and inserted into the soil of the largest Ustashe death camp, Jasenovac. The site of the camp, now a memorial, contains the remains of many of the innocents who were killed there by the Ustashe forces-by some estimates, several hundred thousand such innocents. 

By transforming the Jasenovac memorial, Mr. Tudjman recently told the Croatian Parliament, "a tribute to all the victims would be paid and reconciliation and truth about all victims on Croatia's way to independence and sovereignty secured". His justification was quite plain: "Because of historical and also current political reasons, the Jasenovac memorial should be altered so as to become a memorial of all Croatian war victims".

President Tudjman wants the world, and his own people, to believe that all those bones are morally equal. He wants to confer upon those perpetrators the innocence of their victims. He wants to make sure that the Ustashe regime, whose aim was independence from the Serbs, is no longer a source of national embarrassment. His plan to rearrange the bones of history is consistent with the effort being carried out in Croatia today to rehabilitate the reputation of the Ustashe regime's murderous leader, Ante Pavelic.

The problem here is not only that President Tudjman's plan, if it is carried out, would defile sacred ground. Even worse, it would confuse future Croatians about what actually happened on that ground. They might simply assume that many people had died in the Balkans at some time in the past, that there was no focused mass killing on an ethnic or racial basis by the Ustashe regime during World War II, and that there was no Holocaust. And this forgery of Croatia's Holocaust landscape would become a perfect model for other countries elsewhere in Europe, eager to rearrange the landscapes of their own Holocaust histories.

Croatians have much at stake here. The soil of their region is drenched not only with the blood of Jews, Serbs and Croats, now decades old, but also with the much fresher blood of a new generation of innocents killed during the carnage of the past few years-that of Muslims, Croats and Serbs. Unless the full reality of past savegeries stemming from historical, religious and territorial enmities are acknowledged with honesty, and unless the wounds are allowed to heal, there will never be a lasting peace. True, healing leaves scars. But, in the case of history, scars not only remind us of the past but also warn us against the future.

The people of Croatia must stop their president before he desecrates their name by desecrating the history he wishes to deny. 

NOTE: Despite the clear knowledge that Dr. Reich, the Director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, has about the history of WWII in Yugoslavia, the Ustashe and Mr. Tudjman's extreme revisionism - at the openning of the museum Mr. Tudjman was invited as an honorary guest... Not even one Serb was invited. None! 


o Common suffering of Jews and Serbs
o Tudjman
o Resurrected Nazi Croatia

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Last revised: April 22, 1997