Without permission, for fair
A PLAN THAT'S BAD TO THE BONE
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,
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
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
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 Resurrected Nazi Croatia
The truth belongs to us all.
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Last revised: April 22, 1997