Life Under Rome's Umbrella

The greatest genocide during WWII, in proportion to a nation's population, took place, not in Nazi Germany but in the Nazi-created puppet state of Croatia. There in the years 1941-45 some 750,000 Serbs, 60,000 Jews and 26,000 Gypsies - men, women and children - perished in a GIGANTIC holocaust...[1]

Have you ever wondered what is wrong with those people who live in the nation states that used to be known collectively as Yugoslavia? The savagery displayed by the various ethnic and religious groups against one another calls to mind the atrocities charged to the regimes of monsters such as Adolph Hitler, Josef Stalin, Caligula, etc. Why can't they get along? After all, we live in ecumenical times, or so claims the Roman Church and those who shelter in the shadow of her umbrella.

What is at the root of the vicious and seemingly unending warfare in that Balkan region? Is it racial? Religious? Territorial? Or a combination of these?

A look at the social history of the Balkans might help the reader to understand the depth of bitterness that continues to fuel enduring hatreds in the region. Equally important, I believe, is the clear example of what can happen in a nation where no law prevents the Roman Catholic Church from the free exercise of her corporate will. I caution the sensitive reader that some of historical evidence I shall present in this paper will be shocking and graphic. The sources I draw upon include contemporary testimony before war crimes tribunals, statements of survivors and perpetrators, etc. At the end of the paper, after the endnotes, I provide a bibliography for those who might care to research the issues more fully.

Some 3200 years ago, the Illyrians, antecedents of modern day Albanians, made their way into the region now known as the Balkans. Albanians living in Kosovar refer to this fact in support their historical claims to the area.

It wasn't until the 6th century AD that Southern Slavs began moving into the area. Before long they were followed by waves of Slovenes, Croats, Serbs and Bulgars. Bulgaria and Macedonia were settled around 600 AD and this led to another nationality claim. Bulgarians argue that the language of Macedonia is closely related to their own, which means that people living in Macedonia should be considered Bulgarians, not Serbs.

By the beginning of the 9th century, Balkan Croatians had become vassals of the Holy Roman Empire. Frankish missionaries arrived on the scene and began molding Croatia into a Roman Catholic nation. In 879 AD, Pope John VIII officially recognized the Croatian state.

In an interesting sidebar, it was in the 9th century that Rome granted Croatia the very remarkable privilege of permitting her priests to celebrate the Mass in the vernacular. Another special consideration extended to Croatian Catholics was that their sacral literature was written in their own language. Until Vatican II, the Croats were the only Catholics who did not use the Latin liturgy.

The Serbs, being closer to the Byzantine Empire, joined with many of the other Slavic nations in converting to Orthodox Christianity. The churches in these nations looked to Constantinople for leadership.

Relations between Serbs and Croats over the centuries have in many ways mirrored those between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.

From the 4th century on, there were periodic outbreaks of tension between Rome and Constantinople. Usually, doctrinal differences were at the root of these flare-ups. Some of the issues the churches disagreed on included allowing married men into the priesthood, using unleavened bread in the Eucharist and papal supremacy. The Greek Patriarch Photius began moving his church away from Rome in 879 AD, but it was the Patriarch Cerularius who actually severed ties with Rome in 1054 AD. This was accomplished under a hail of anathemas rained down upon the principal negotiators of both churches.

[Note: As most who read this likely know, Rome is driving hard to bring her 'separated brethren' back under her wing. All those anathemas that were fired back and forth in 1054 AD were revoked by both churches in 1965. This raises some interesting questions, such as: Did all those Catholic and Orthodox faithful who died under anathema and were condemned to one or the other church's version of Hell receive a get-out-of-jail free card? Were they and those who still were cooking in Purgatory compensated for their unnecessary suffering? So many questions can arise when one's theology is built upon the shifting sands of politics and human emotions.]

By the 10th century, Croatia had become a kingdom and, in 1102, she united with Hungary, though she did retain some autonomy.

Stephan Nemanja of Raska led a successful revolt against Byzantine rule in 1172 AD. When Raska joined with the principality of Zeta in that same year, the first Serbian state was formed. In less that 100 years, the new nation had become an affluent kingdom.

Shortly after taking his seat on Peter's Throne, Innocent III began calling for a crusade to recapture the holy city of Jerusalem. It took a few years to round up a force sufficient to the task, but in 1201 AD, a large body of Flemish and French crusaders gathered near Venice. They planned to invade Egypt, believing that victory there would be the key to retaking Jerusalem.

There was a problem, however. The crusaders couldn't pay for the trip across the Mediterranean. So they made a deal with the Venetians. A few years previously, Hungary had seized the Venetian port of Zara, on the Adriatic. Venice wanted its satellite city back. This was the deal offered the Frankish army: Take Zara for us and we'll take you to Egypt.

Pope Innocent III didn't like this idea at all and ordered the army not to move against Zara. The crusaders ignored their pope and laid siege to the city. Innocent III excommunicated the whole bunch, but this did not stop them. As it turned out, capturing Zara was no big thing - the city surrendered after only a few days' siege.

The Pope tried to get the crusaders back on track and moving toward Palestine but they had other ideas. Excommunicated and thereby free of papal control, the crusaders and Venetians abandoned their plans to move on Egypt and instead attacked Constantinople, the wealthiest Christian city in the world.

For three days following the fall of Constantinople on April 13, 1204, Crusaders and Venetians ran wild in the fallen city, raping and pillaging. In their greed for riches, Christian warriors and clergy spared neither church nor palace. When order had been restored, the crusaders and Venetians divided the spoils and created their own empire in the ruins of Byzantium. Baldwin, Count of Flanders was the new emperor. Venice now owned the ports of Thrace, the Peleponnesus and the islands. The Marquis of Montferrat took possession of Thessalonica and Macedonia and was made a king. In all, some 600 nobles and knights were given fiefs in the new French speaking, Roman Catholic empire.

What was left of the Byzantine government moved to Nicea, as did a number of Greek bishops who abandoned their churches to Latin ordinaries. What had been Greek convents became Cistercian monasteries.

The fall and looting of Constantinople effectively marked the end of the 4th Crusade, which never did get to the Holy Land. The Roman pope, at first incensed over the 'unChristian' behavior of the crusaders, apparently forgave them - to the point of lifting the ban of excommunication he had placed upon them. And why not? After all, most of the Byzantine Empire had just been added to the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1345, Turkish mercenaries in the employ of the Byzantine Empire moved into the Balkans to fight in wars against Bulgaria, Serbia and the crusader states. Apparently, the Turks liked what they saw there, for they soon returned on their own and conquered the region. In a major battle in Kosovo in 1389, the Turks defeated a Serbian army. To this day, Serbs consider that battlefield and the nearby Serbian monasteries to be hallowed ground. They absolutely reject all Albanian claims to the area.

The Serbian defeat at the field of Kosovo was a defining moment for Serbian history. First, there was a great killing which wiped out the nobility and knights and left the Serbs as a peasant nation. The democratic, populist, often vulgar nature of Serbian politics in modern times owes something to Kosovo. Second, enshrined in national legends and epic poetry, Kosovo encapsulated Serbian identity. The story of Kosovo allowed the Serbs to remember who they were, by remembering their enemies. Kosovo as a place remains part of the present day ethnic strife in the Kosovo region: even though its population today is mostly Albanian, the Serbs are as likely to give up this sanctified battle field as, say, Texans would be to return the Alamo to Mexico. [2]

In 1526, while Europe was writhing in the Reformation and Pope Clement VII was occupied trying to keep Francis I of France and Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire from each other's throats, a Turkish army under Suleiman the Magnificent was moving northward through the Balkans. Suleiman's army crushed Hungarian forces in the Battle of Mohacs, a city in southern Hungary near the Yugoslavian border. King Louis II of Hungary and most of his nobles were wiped out in the fighting. The king died childless, so Ferdinand of Hapsburg, who was married to the dead kings sister, claimed Hungary, Bohemia and Moravia. For nearly 400 years, the Catholic Hapsburgs ruled the most powerful empire in Central Europe. I found it interesting that the Hapsburgs claimed sovereignty over Hungary, but the Ottoman Turks occupied most of the nation for centuries.

By 1683, Turkish forces had made their way far enough northward to lay siege to Vienna. In their wake were a lot of Balkan subjects who had become really unhappy with their cruel and oppressive rule. The Serbs broke out in revolt in 1690, but were defeated, which led some 70,000 Serbs to make their way out of Turkish Serbia to Hapsburg Croatia, where they settled in the border area of Krajina in the west.

By 1831, the Ottoman Empire was shrinking, but a census revealed that about one-third of the Balkan population was Muslim, who were roundly hated by the remainder of the people who would not forget the oppressive Ottoman regime. It wasn't long before the Serbian state began making plans to seize the Turkish possessions of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and northern Albania, all of which had Serbian populations.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire took control of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1878, annexing the province in 1908. The 1st Balkan War broke out in 1912, as Greece and Bulgaria fought to boot the Turks out of Macedonia and most of Thrace. The following year, Greece, Serbia and Romania fought the 2nd Balkan War against Bulgaria over the division of the spoils of the 1st Balkan War. Serbia won that war and nearly doubled its territory. Encouraged by her success, Serbia then turned its attention to Austrian-controlled Bosnia and Croatia.

In 1921, a new nation appeared on the international scene - the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The constitution of the new state declared the unification of Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia, but that is not the way things worked out. Serbs were in the majority in Yugoslavia and they refused to buy into Croatian ideas concerning federalism and autonomy. Tensions mounted until, in 1929, King Alexander dissolved parliament and established a royal dictatorship. The Serbians liked the idea, for they held the bulk of the power in the new government, but not so the other ethnic groups.

In Yugoslavia, the Croatian wish for federalism was never reconciled with Great Serbian nationalism. After the assassination of Croatia's leading politician in 1929, King Alexander gave up trying to rule by consensus and imposed a royal dictatorship that lasted until World War II.

Tensions continued to mount. Prince Paul, Regent of Yugoslavia, signed an alliance with Hitler in March, 1941. Within a few days, the Serb-controlled Yugoslavian army, distrustful of Hitler and fearing concession to the Croats, overthrew the government. The following month, Germany invaded and partitioned Yugoslavia. The Croatians were so pleased to see the German invaders that they almost immediately established a puppet government controlled by Ustashi fascists. Bosnia became part of the new "Independent State of Croatia," or NDH. Italy received the Dalmatian coast and Bulgaria received Macedonia. The Germans decided to rule Serbia themselves.

Now in control, the Catholic Ustashi instituted a program designed to eliminate Serbs from Croatia. The program used deportation, execution and gunpoint conversion in a program they described as 'ethnic cleansing'. This was the first use of this term.

The Ustashi expressed their Croatian patriotism in terms of anti-Serb and anti-Orthodox activity. Orthodox schools and churches were closed, the Cyrillic script was banned, and Serbs were forced to wear identifying badges. Assisted by priests, Ustashi units carried out mass conversions to Catholicism at gun point in Serb villages. Orthodox priests, Serbian teachers and those who resisted were murdered, often after torture. The Ustashi are credited with coining the term "cleansing" to describe these ethnic persecutions.[3]

At this point, things got really confusing. Muslims joined with Catholic Croats to slaughter Orthodox Serbs, while Serbs gathered into 'Chetnik' guerilla units or Communist bands to fight the Ustashi, each other and the Germans. This went on until the end of World War II.

The Croats were and are an intensely Roman Catholic people. In the pogrom to 'cleanse' the NDH of the hated Serbs and their equally hated Orthodox religion, the Ustashi and Roman Catholic clergy cooperated closely.

As Ustashi racialism had embarked upon a policy of Serbian extermination, it followed that its twin counterpart, Catholicism, could do no less than embark upon the extermination of its main religious foe: the Orthodox Church. State and Church, consequently, to implement their mutual scheme of total racial-religious exclusiveness, set out to pursue parallel policies, epitomized in the extermination of the racial elements, the Serbs, by the political authorities, and in that of the religious elements, the Orthodox, by the Catholic Hierarchy. [4]

Catholic newspapers and diocesan publications condemned non-Catholics and supported the Croatian führer (Poglovnik), Ante Pavelic. Catholic nuns marched in parades with Croatian Nazi Legionaires. Catholic priests and monks took up guns and knives and led Ustashi bands in the field, where many proved every bit as bloodthirsty as the men they led in battle. As is always the case, Rome's spin doctors have been hard at work trying to paint a positive picture of the RCC's involvement in the horrors of the Croatian Holocaust. History, supported by sworn testimony before international war crimes tribunals, photographs and documentary evidence, reveals the truth, and no amount of Vatican whitewash can hide that.

The Catholic Church did not leave the execution of a religious war to the secular arm, as she had done in similar circumstances in bygone centuries. She came down into the fighting field, full tilt, shunning precautions and brandishing the sword against those whom she had decided to exterminate, with a directness that had not been seen for a long time. Many of the Ustashi formations were officered by Catholic priests, and often by friars, who had taken an oath to fight with dagger and gun for the "triumph of Christ and Croatia." Many of them did not hesitate to carry out the most infamous tasks, glorying in deeds that would have filled with shame any average "heathen or barbarian from the East." All in the name of religion. . . [5]

The savagery of the Ustashi cannot adequately be described in a short article such as this. In their drive to eliminate all non-Catholics from Croatian territory, they spared not the elderly, not the women, not even the children. Whole villages were wiped out, often in the most brutal manner. Bodies were thrown into the Sava River, so they would float downstream to Belgrade, the Serbian capital. Sometimes, dead Serbs were stacked on boats bearing signs designed to taunt downstream Serbs and set adrift. One such boat carried a little pile of childrens' heads, with the roasted head of a woman, perhaps the mother, on top.

This is not wartime propaganda. The information above was taken from a letter written by a Roman Catholic Croatian, Privislav Grizogono, a member of the Yugoslav Diplomatic Corps. Grizogono, Minister to Czechoslovakia and Minister to Poland, wrote the following letter to Dr. Aloisius Stepinac, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Zagreb, Croatia, on February 8, 1942. A translation of the letter was printed in the American Srbobran, a Serbian paper published in Pittsburgh, on February 24, 1943:

These atrocities do not amount to killings alone. They aim at extermination of everything Serbian: women, children, and aged men, and in terribly wild tortures of the victims. These innocent Serbs were stuck on poles alive, and fires were built on their bare chests. Literally they were roasted alive, burned to death in their homes and churches. Boiling water was poured on live victims before mutilation; their flesh was salted. Eyes were dug out of live victims, ears amputated, noses and tongues lobbed off. The beards and mustaches of priests, together with their skin, were ripped off rudely by knives. They were tied to trucks and dragged behind them. The arms and legs of the victims were broken and their heads were spiked.

They were thrown into the deep cisterns and caves, then literally bombed to pieces. Crowbars smashed their heads. Their children were thrown into fire, scalding water, and fed to the fired lime furnaces. Other children were parted by their legs; their heads crushed against walls and their spines dashed against rocks. These and many other methods of torture were employed against the Serbs - tortures which normal people cannot conceive. Thousands of Serbian bodies floated down the Sava, Drava, and Danube rivers and their tributaries. Many of these bodies bore tags: 'Direction-Belgrade, to King Peter.' In one boat on the Sava there was a pile of children's heads, with a woman's head (presumably the mother of the children) labeled: "Meat for John's Market-Belgrade" (meaning meat for the Serbian market). "The case of Milenka Bozinich from Stapandza is a particularly gruesome one: they dug her unborn child out of her with a knife. Then, in Bosnia, a huge pile of roasted heads was found. Utensils full of Serbian blood were also discovered; this was the hot blood of their murdered brothers that other Serbs were forced to drink.

Countless women, girls, and children were raped, mothers before daughters and daughters before mothers, while many women, girls, and female children were ushered off to Ustashi garrisons to be used as prostitutes. Rapes were committed even before the altars of the Orthodox Church. About 3,000 Serbs were murdered in the Serbian Orthodox Church at Glina, and the massacre of Serbians before the altar at Kladusha with sledge hammers is something never mentioned in history....

There are detailed and official minutes (reports) about these unheard-of crimes. They are so terrible they have shocked even the Germans and Italians. Many pictures were taken of these massacres and torture orgies. The Germans claim the Croats did these same things during the Thirty-Year War and that, since then, there is a proverb in Germany: 'God save us from cholera, hunger, and the Croats.' Even the Germans from Srem [Syrmia] hate us and act more or less humanely toward the Serbs. The Italians have photographed a vessel holding 35.5 kilograms of Serbian eyes, and one Croat decorated with a wreath of Serbian eyes came to Dubrovik with two wreaths of Serbian tongues.

Though we Croatians shall never be able to erase this shamefulness which we brought upon ourselves with these crimes, we can at least lessen our responsibility before the world and our consciences if we raise our voices in protest against all these crimes.

This is the last hour for us to do so. After all the great crimes in history, punishments follow. What will happen to us Croats if the impression is formed that we participated in all these crimes to the finish?"'

[Signed] Privislav Grizigono At Zemum, Feb. 8, 1942

Some passages in this document relating to Croatian atrocities are unprintable [6]

A British officer attached to Yugoslavian guerillas wrote:

The whole of Bosnia ran with blood. Bands of the Ustase (sic) roamed the countryside with knives, bludgeons and machine guns, slaughtering Serbian and Jewish men, women and little children, desecrating Serbian churches, murdering Serbian priests, laying waste Serbian villages, torturing, raping, burning, drowning. Killing became a cult, an obsession. The Ustase vied to outdo each other, boasting of the numbers of their victims and of their own particular methods of dispatching them....Some Ustase collected the eyes of Serbs they killed, sending them to the Poglavnik (führer) of (sic) his inspection or proudly displaying them and other human organs in the cafes of Zagreb. Even their German and Italian allies were dismayed at their excesses. [7]

In a book published in Rome in 1948, an Italian newspaper correspondent described an interview he had with Ustashi führer Ante Pavelic:

While they were talking I noticed a cane basket on the left hand side of the Pavelic's desk. The cover was slightly raised: I could see that the basket was full of sea fruit. At least, that is what I thought it was. It looked like oysters but extracted from the shells, like the ones that you sometimes can see served on large plates at Fortnumm and Mason, in Piccadilly in London. . .

Casertano looked at me and gave me a sign with his eyes: 'How would you like to have some oyster soup?'

'Are they Dalmatian oysters?' I asked Pavelic.

Ante Pavelic took the lid off the basket and showed me the sea fruit, that sticky and jelly-like mass, and then said, laughing with his frank and tired laughter: 'This is the gift from my faithful Ustashi, twenty kilos of human eyes.' [8]

As I mentioned previously, Croatians were intensely Roman Catholic. What were their Catholic priests and bishops doing while all this decidedly unchristian behavior was going on? The short answer is: They were participating in it.

The Catholic Church has never believed in persuasion, which is used only when she cannot enjoy absolute power. Her actions have always been based on one of the most incontrovertible and typical Catholic dogmas: naked force. This, not only to smite, but also to convert. In Croatia she used force to do both, destruction and conversion having been, in all her wars of religion, two facets of the same grand strategy.

It was thus that, while demolishing Orthodox churches, while massacring Orthodox clergy and bishops, she was at the same time converting their congregations to Catholicism, using a "persuasion" behind which stood boycott, threats, force, and even death. Catholic priests became the natural leaders of this specialized operation, priests and monks competing to see who could convert most Orthodox to the "only true faith."The spirit in which the campaign was conducted can best be judged by a typical leaflet, issued in 1941, by the diocesan journal of Djakovo, which read:

The Lord Jesus Christ said that there shall be one pasture and one shepherd. Inhabitants of the Greek-Eastern faith, hear this friendly advice.... The Bishop of Djakovo has already received thousands of citizens in the Holy Catholic Church, and these citizens have received certificates of honesty from State authorities. Follow these brothers of yours, and report as soon as possible for re-Christening into the Catholic Church. [9]

Roman Catholic religious joined forces with Ustashi units to forcibly 'convert' Orthodox Serbians to the Roman Catholic faith. Those to be converted essentially had to choose between death, often after torture, or adopting the Catholic religion. To help them choose, the guns, knives and hammers of the Ustashi stood at the ready. Sometimes, after converting, the Serbs were killed anyway.

Some Catholic priests were eager to use guns to bring an abundant crop of forcible conversions on a far larger scale. The words of Father Petar Pajic, published in the organ of the Archbishop of Sarajevo, bear witness to that:

Until now, God spoke through papal encyclicals...And? They closed their ears.... Now God has decided to use other methods. He will prepare missions. European missions. World missions. They will be upheld, not by priests, but by army commanders, led by Hitler. The sermons will be heard, with the help of cannons, machine guns, tanks and bombers. The language of these sermons will be international. [10]

Neither the Ustashi nor the Roman Catholic Church made any real effort to disguise the true nature of these forced 'conversions.' Witness this brief account of such a conversion in the February 25, 1942 edition of Nova Hrvatska, a Ustashi newspaper:

The re-Christening was carried out in a very solemn manner by the curate of Petrinja, Michael Razum. An Ustashi company was present at this solemn occasion.

Some members of the Catholic clergy took advantage of the opportunities provided by the presence of armed Ustashi troops at these 'religious ceremonies' and collected fees from each new 'believer.' It was reported that Canon Ivan Mikan, the curate of Ogulin, actually charged converts 180 dinars apiece. This turned out to be a real cash cow. In the village of Jasenak, he collected some 80,000 dinars.

As most who read this likely know, the Roman Catholic Church is big on ceremonies and rituals. The reception into the bosom of Holy Mother Church of a number of converts - it mattered not that they converted under threat of death - often was the occasion for a religious procession. The converts, usually escorted by pious Ustashi troops, would solemnly make their way to the local Catholic church, all the while chanting their joy over having been embraced by the true church. Finally, they would sing Te Deums and offer prayers for Pope Pius XII. Then, to add to their misery, the newly-converted villages were required to notify Archbishop Stepinac by telegram of their re-christening. This was at the behest of Stepinac, who directed that he be immediately notified of any mass conversion performed anywhere in Croatia.

The news then was published in Katolicki List, the diocesan journal, and in Nova Hrvatska, the Ustashi newspaper. One of these telegrams, published on April 9, 1942, read:

2,300 persons assembled in Slatinski Drenovac, from the villages of Drenovac, Pusina, Kraskovic, Prekorecan, Miljani and Gjursic, accepted today the protection of the Roman Catholic Church and send their profound greetings to their Head."

Karlheinz Deschner, a Catholic church historian, writing on wartime conditions in Croatia had this to say:

The Serbs have become slaughterhouse material. In accordance with this doctrine the Ustashi started actions against Serbs, the people of the highest cultural level in the Balkans but not of the Catholic faith...

Catholics were urged from the church pulpits to persecute Orthodox Serbs and especially arduous in this were the Franciscans whose monasteries have for a long time served as meeting grounds for the Ustashi. [11]

In 1953, the Italian army opened part of its wartime archives to the press. One of the documents made available contained this report of Ustashi atrocities written by the Commander of the Italian "Sasari" division:

Population in some places was completely exterminated, after having been tortured and tormented.

The horrors that the Ustashi have committed over the Serbian small girls is beyond all words. There are hundreds of photographs confirming these deeds because those of them who have survived the torture: bayonetted hips, pulling of tongues and teeth, nails and breast tips (all this having been done after they were raped), were taken in by our officers and transported to Italian hospitals where these documents and facts were gathered. [12]

Catholic priests and friars often took a more direct hand in resolving the 'Serbian problem.' Canon Ivan Mikan, for example, personally ordered the looting of the Orthodox monastery at Gomirje and the transportation of its monks to a death camp. Father Anto, of Trasmosnjica, organized Ustashi bands to round up Orthodox Serbs, many of which he personally tortured.

Two Catholic priests, Fathers Guncevic and Marjanovich Dragutin, in their capacity as police officials, ordered the arrests of hundreds of Orthodox. Once rounded up, the priests played active roles in their torture and execution.

One of the most infamous mass slaughters of Serbs occurred in the town of Glina. German Castimir, the abbot of a nearby monastery, personally ordered the butchering of Orthodox Serbs, hundreds of whom were slaughtered inside their Orthodox church. [13]

During World War II, there were 71 camps and 329 prisons within the area of former Yugoslavia. Twenty-seven camps, modeled on the Nazi death camps, were in Croatia (13 Ustashi's, 8 Italian and 6 German). These camps consisted of little more than enclosed areas. There were few, if any, buildings to shelter the inmates and even these usually had no roofs. Life in these camps was nightmarish. Ustashi guards and camp administrators practiced random acts of torture and murder, usually without provocation. Inmates of these camps were shot, stabbed, beaten with boards and clubs, starved, burned and submitted to many other abuses that only the most depraved minds would consider. Prisoners were fed once a day. The 'meal' consisted of a bowl of thin 'soup.' This 'soup' consisted of a lot of water to which a very few beans had been added.

The worst of these camps was at Jasenovic, where tens of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Romanies (Gypsies) and dissenting Croats were murdered. The first commander of this death camp was Father Miroslav Filipovic, a monk of the Order of St. Francis. Filipovic, a long-time Ustashi, was utterly ruthless. Once, while exhorting Ustashi troops in a village called Drakulic, he killed an Orthodox child with his own hands. After murdering the child, this gentle Franciscan charged the Ustashi to "re-Christen these degenerates in the name of God. You follow my example."

During his tenure as commandant of the Jasenovic camp, Filipovic and his assistants, Father Zvonko Brekalo, Father Z. Lipovac and Father Vulina, supervised the deaths of at least 40,000 men, women and children.

The foregoing accounts and tons more are recorded in the files of the Yugoslav State Commission for the Investigation of War Crimes.

Estimates of the total numbers killed in the NDH, or anywhere in Yugoslavia for that matter, vary greatly. The body count varies from the 'official' Yugoslavia estimate of 600,000 to the Serbian calculation of 1,700,00. The sad fact is that no one but God can know for certain. The necessary demographic information simply does not exist. A census was conducted in Yugoslavia in 1921, and again in 1931. However, these were poorly done and are not considered reliable. World War II prevented taking a census in 1941, though a census was taken in 1948. This latter count, however, did not include war victims, only survivors.

Unfortunately, one of the first measures undertaken by the Catholic Ustashi regime was a terrible military venture of extermination of the Serbian Greek-Orthodox parts of population which has come under the Croatian rule. The horrors that had taken place at that time had thrown the young country into a predestined civil war... [14]

When the war ended, Communist leader Josef Tito had the only effective military force left in Yugoslavia, so he took charge of the ravaged nation. Tito and those who followed him spent the next four decades or so putting down ethnic uprisings and managed to keep the republic of Yugoslavia intact, though the pots were boiling in her six republics and two autonomous regions. When Tito died, things really started to unravel as the various republics and ethnic regions began to pull out of the Yugoslavian Republic. Once again, armed units took the field as Croats, Serbs, Albanians and Slovenes to resume their ethnic wars. The rest is on CNN

One question that has to be asked is: Why didn't Rome stop the slaughter?

There are those who would argue that the goings-on in backwater Croatia were not known to the Pope. After all, they claim, there was a war going on. Travel was difficult. These arguments to not hold water. Croatia, the NDH, was a Fascist state affiliated with both Germany and Italy. Travel between Rome and Zagreb would was only slightly more difficult than it had been before the war.

In any case, Pius XII had tacitly recognized the NDH by sending his Legate, Monsignor Giuseppe Ramiro Marcone. The Legate, who was well-liked in Zagreb, gave the fascist salute and publicly blessed the Ustashi. The Pope's official representative encouraged Catholics to be faithful to the Holy See and openly instigated religious persecution. In their efforts to revise history, RCC apologists sometimes would have us believe that the Holy See didn't really recognize the NDH, but only maintained friendly relations. Some would have us believe that Marcone was but an Apostolic Visitator, sent to look into conditions in the NDH. However, that does not hold water. Marcone was the Dean (most senior) of the diplomatic corps in the NDH, and in all his correspondence with the Ustashi government he called himself "Sancti Sedis Legatus" or "Elegatus." He never referred to himself as "apostolic visitator." [15]

Certainly Archbishop Stepinac could have done something to reduce, if not end, the horrors being perpetrated by the Ustashi on the non-Catholic peoples of the NDH. He had the power. He had military authority. I think it interesting that in October of 1940, months before the German army invaded Yugoslavia, the Vatican agreed to let Stepinac become military vicar. Stepinac knew what was happening in the NDH. After all, as I have shown, he received reports of every mass conversion. Priests and monks under his authority led military units, ran death camps and often participated in the Ustashi terrorism. The Catholic journal published by his diocese actively supported the Ustashi thugs and published accounts of the gunpoint conversions. Twice during the Ustash reign of terror in the NDH, Stepinac traveled to to meet with Pius XII. It seems unlikely to me that the two 'holy men of God' did not discuss the goings-on in the NDH. In fact, Stepinac sent an official document to his Pope on May 8, 1944, in which he informed the Holy Father that to date "244,000 Orthodox Serbs" had been "converted to the Church of God." [16]

Within the highest levels of the Roman Catholic Church, there existed a body known as the Holy Congregation of Eastern Churches. The function of the office, which was headed by Cardinal Tiseran during this period, was to deal with the Eastern churches. Given the unobstructed flow of communications between the Vatican and the NDH, it appears likely that Cardinal Tiseran received detailed reports of every gunpoint conversion and massacre in the NDH. Surely, he was informed that more than 100,000 Orthodox Serbs were slaughtered in Croatia between April and June 19, 1941. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, Cardinal Tiseran declared, on July 17, 1941, that Archbishop Stepinac would accomplish a great work for Catholicism in "the Independent State of Croatia… Where there are such great hopes for the conversion of those who are not of the true faith." [17]

The Croatian führer, Ante Pavelic, had a representative in the Vatican. Pius XII sent "special blessings to the Leader (Pavelic)," by means of this diplomat, and from him received regular reports, some of which were sent by the NDH Minister of Religions, concerning the progress of the Catholicization of the New Croatia. [18]

It seems a certainty that Pius XII was fully aware of events in the NDH, so why did he not intervene? Well, according to at least one authority on the Croatian Holocaust, the Pope did make a small effort on behalf of Jews in the NDH. However, when his feeble attempts received only evasive responses, he simply stopped trying. Some have pointed to his inaction as a sign that he was anti-Semitic. At least one researcher disagrees:

Outside Italy, a strong papal condemnation of the Holocaust could have an even greater impact. The Jews of Hungary, for example, were still free at the end of 1943. During the spring of 1944, hundreds of thousands were arrested and deported by Hungarian officials who might have been influenced by the Pope's open appeal. Suggestions that the Pope was in some way anti-Jewish and therefore insensitive to Jewish sufferings are reprehensible. The Pope may have shared the prejudices of many Christians against Judaism as religion, but there is no evidence that he did not grieve at the violence and horror of the Holocaust. Charges that he acquiesced for personal fear are equally unworthy and lacking in evidence.

A third explanation, that the Pope so feared bolshevism that he refused to condemn Nazism, comes closer to the truth. Pope Pius XII was almost pathologically afraid of bolshevism. He loudly condemned Russian aggression against Finland, while ignoring German aggression in Catholic Poland. In Rome itself, he so feared a Communist takeover on October 19 (1943), three days after the roundup (of the Jews), he actually requested the Germans to put more police on the streets. German police, who would also arrest Jews and, for that matter, anti-Fascist Christians, were the last thing the Romans wanted and needed.

But the Pope's anti-bolshevism does not adequately explain his reaction to the Holocaust. In fact, as he decided what to do that terrible October, Pope Pius XII faced several overwhelming problems. He knew that a strong definition and condemnation to the Holocaust - not only might have saved lives - might cause the Germans to occupy the Vatican and to invade churches and monasteries throughout Italy. In Rome alone, more than 450 Jews eventually [were sheltered] in the enclaves of the Vatican, while more than 4,000 others found shelter in churches, monasteries, and convents. Many thousands more hid in institutions throughout the country. Serious disintegration of German-relations could place these lives in jeopardy, without necessarily, in Pope's view saving others.

Second, the Pope feared that a condemnation of the Holocaust might provoke Nazi reprisals against Catholics in German-occupied countries, as well as even more terrifying persecution of the Jews. While it is difficult to imagine any more ferocious persecutions than that already existing, it must be remembered that Catholic churchmen in several countries had been able to secure temporary exemptions from deportation for converted Jews and the children and the Jewish spouses of mixed marriages. ...he did not want to jeopardize these private arrangements, especially when it remained unclear how many lives his condemnation of the Holocaust might save.

Third, Pope Pius XII was concerned about his responsible to preserve and protect an institutions as he was about his moral leadership. He was well aware that Hitler toyed with the idea of establishing a rival papacy in Germany. He knew that the Vatican is completely at the mercy of the German troops occupying Italy. Above all, he had reason to believe that a large majority of German Catholics would reject any papal denunciation of the Holocaust. He feared that a threat to excommunicate Catholics who murdered Jews or to place Nazi Germany under the interdict would result in a large-scale defection of German Catholics, and perhaps it would not have occurred. The point he is that the Pope apparently believed it, and his belief influenced his policy. [19]

Though the writer of the foregoing was specifically addressing possible reasons for the Holy See's failure to act decisively on behalf of European Jews, I believe many of her arguments might equally apply when trying to understand its failure to act in the Croatian Holocaust. However, I do not believe they explain why no action was taken to stop Roman Catholic priests and monks from taking arms and leading troops in the field, or from operating death camps and personally taking a hand in torture and murder. I do not believe they explain why Rome did nothing to prevent Roman Catholic priests in the NDH from preaching persecution from their pulpits and in their publications.

The arguments certainly do not explain the Pope's actions when a jury of Croatian Catholics found Archbishop Stepinac guilty of war crimes and sentenced him to 16 years in prison. How did the pope react? He immediately excommunicated every Roman Catholic who participated in the trial and conviction of his archbishop.

Croatia is today involved in repugnant historical revisionism and rehabilitation of its Nazi past .

[The state symbols of present-day Croatia, including its currency, are identical to those of Nazi Croatia.] [20]

The revisionists in Rome and Zagreb are busily re-writing history; painting a different picture than that shown in war time records and reports.

Ante Pavelic was a good Catholic," said Father Luka Prcela, who has held a memorial mass for the former dictator in Split for the last four years. "He went to mass daily in his own chapel. Many of the crimes alleged to have been committed by his government never happened. These stories were lies spread by the communists. He fought for a free, Catholic Croatia. We have this state today because of him. [21]

The Pope reiterated that the character of Cardinal Stepinac integrates this century, and that the former Zagreb archbishop was a victim of three totalitarian systems: fascism, nazism and communism. "He was subject to a farce process after he refused to separate from the Vatican and establish a Croatian church. He remained faithful to Peter's Seat and that is why he was convicted," stated Pope John Paul II. [22]

Now, we are seeing 'evidence' that Archbishop (later Cardinal) Stepinac actually made a great effort to bring an end to the Croatian Holocaust. Now we are being provided excerpts from Stepinac's sermons which show he was fearless and unceasing in his humanitarian striving.

All people of all colors are God's children. All of them, without any discrimination whatsoever, be they Gypsies, black people, civilized Europeans, Jews or proud Aryans are equally entitled to say" `Our Father who art in heaven...' That is why the Catholic Church has always condemned and it still condemnes any injustice committed in the name of class, racial or nationalistic theories. Gypsies and Jews must not be exterminated in the name of a theory which claim that they belong to an inferior race. [23]

Then Archbishop Stepinac, military vicar and leading Catholic ordinary in the "Independent State of Croatia," the man who never visited the Jasenovac death camp and who at best turned a blind eye to the atrocities conducted with the blessings and guidance of Catholic priests and monks is now a Catholic saint.

Today is a historic day for the Catholic Church in Croatia. Pope John Paul II signed a decree declaring Croatian martyr Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac a saint and will officially beatify him during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in Marija Bistrica during his two-day visit to Zagreb, Marija Bistrica and Split this October. The signing of the decree formally has completed the beatification process which has been going on intensively in the Vatican over the last few years.

Yesterday, the Archbishops of Zagreb and Split, Bozanic and Juric, had lunch with the Pope and told him about the preparations for his visit on October 2 - 4 and for the official beatification of SAINT STEPINAC on October 3, 1998. [24]

I have yet to learn the nature of the two qualifying miracles attributed to "Saint Stepinac."

The revisionists being heard from are not just Roman Catholics. There is a body of Croatian Jews who have been trying to convince Israel's Yad Vashem to posthumously add Alojzije Stepinac to the list of Righteous. Two requests were sent; one in 1970 and another in 1994. Both times, the requests were denied. Iris Rosenberg, of Yad Vashem, explained in a letter that "persons who assisted Jews but simultaneously collaborated or were closely linked with a Fascist regime which took part in the Nazi orchestrated persecution of Jews may be disqualified for the Righteous title."

The requests were made by former Croatian Jews now living in Israel. The official Jewish organization today has made no such nomination to Yad Vashem. [25]

There can be no denying that Stepinac and other Roman Catholic religious in the NDH did help many Croatian Jews to survive the Holocaust in the Independent State of Croatia. There is ample documentation to that effect. These good works, however, do not in any way balance the great evil unleashed in the NDH and actively supported by Stepinac and other RCC religious in that nation. It is a simple matter, however, when focusing solely on one's own values, to ignore other, even larger, issues. Witness, for example, this comment by Louis Breier, president of the Jewish community in the USA, made just two days after Stepinac was arrested in 1946:

This great man was tried as a collaborator of Nazism. We protest against this slander. He has always been a sincere friend of Jews, and was not hiding this even in times of cruel persecutions under the regime of Hitler and his followers. Alongside with Pope Pius XII, Archbishop Stepinac was the greatest protector of persecuted Jews in Europe

And in Croatia, revisionists are resurrecting the ghosts of the Ustashi, as evidenced by this recent report from Croatia:

SPLIT, Croatia -- The old fascist marching songs were sung, a moment of silence was observed for all who died defending the fatherland, and the gathering on Thursday was reminded that it was the 57th anniversary of the founding of Croatia's Nazi-allied wartime government. Then came the most chilling words of the afternoon.

"For Home!" shouted Anto Dapic, surrounded by bodyguards in black suits and crew cuts.

"Ready!" responded the crowd of 500 supporters, their arms rising in a stiff Nazi salute.

The call and response -- the Croatian equivalent of "Sieg!" "Heil!" -- was the wartime greeting used by supporters of the fascist Independent State of Croatia that governed the country for most the Second World War and murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews, Serbs and Croatian resistance fighters. [26] >/b>

In all fairness, it must be mentioned that not everyone in Croatia is riding the bandwagon to revise history:

… many Croats, especially those who had relatives killed by the fascists, smolder with indignation over the glorification of a regime that slaughtered opponents with a ferocity that often shocked its Italian and German allies…

The climate has become so charged that those who oppose the rehabilitation of the Ustashi do not dare raise their voices.

The Ustashi supporters also have a powerful ally in the Catholic Church in Croatia. The Church, led during the war by Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac, was a prominent backer of the Ustashi regime. It forcibly converted tens of thousands of Orthodox Serbs and did not denounce the government's roundup and slaughter of Jews and Serbs…

After the war, many priests, rather than condemn the brutality of the fascist regime, went on to set up an underground network known as "the rat line" to smuggle former Ustashi leaders, including Pavelic, to countries like Argentina.

The church, persecuted by the communists, has now re-emerged as one of the most powerful institutions in the country, in large part because religion is the only tangible difference separating Serbs, Muslims and Croats. Several priests have enthusiastically joined the rehabilitation campaign, portraying Pavelic as a pious leader who championed Christian values. [27]

What I have described of the Roman Catholic Church's conduct in the Balkans is true to pattern. Any honest student of history can see the same cruelty and bloody pattern of forced conversions everywhere she was not restrained by a powerful government. Look to alignment with the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War. Examine her conduct when travelling with the Conquistadores in the Americas. Ask the Filippinos. Or the Albighenses. Ask any of the victims of the Inquisitions. And then give thanks to God that you live in a land where this beast is kept chained up.

A final word from a Croatian Jew.

You cannot reconcile victims and butchers," said Ognjen Kraus, the head of Zagreb's small Jewish community. "No one has the right to carry out a reconciliation in the name of those who vanished. [28]


1. Paris, Edmond, "Genocide in Satellite Croatia 1941-45," Chicago:The American Institute for Balkan Affairs (1961), Introduction

2. Sowards, Steven, "Twenty-five Lectures On Modern Balkan History (The Balkans In The Age Of Nationalism)," Lecture 3: The principles of Ottoman rule in the Balkans, Michigan State University (1966)

3. Sowards, Steven "Twenty-five Lectures On Modern Balkan History (The Balkans In The Age Of Nationalism)," Lecture 19: The traditional regimes and the challenge of Nazism (1996),

4. Avro Manhattan, "The Vatican's Holocaust," Chapter 7, Ozark Books (1986), Springfield, MO

5. Ibid.

6. Mitchell, Ruth "The Serbs Choose War," New York:Doubleday Doran (1943), pp. 244-45

7. Maclean, Fitzroy; a British emissary to the Yugoslavian guerrillas, quoted by Alexander Kimel in the e-magazine "Holocaust - Understanding and Prevention,"

8. Malaparte, Curzio & Foligno, Cesare (Translator), "Kaputt," Northwestern University Press (1995)

9. Avro Manhattan, "The Vatican's Holocaust," Chapter 7, Ozark Books (1986), Springfield, MO

10. Katolicki Tjednik, No. 35, August 31, 1941

11. Deschner, Karlheinz "Abermalsrahen der Hahn," Gunther (1962), Stuttgart, Germany

12. "Il Tempo" (Rome) September 10, 1953

13. For a more complete list of Catholic religious who bloodied their hands in Croatia, see "Martyrdom of the Serbs," (Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese USA, Chicago:Palendech's Press (1943), p. 176)

14. Gorlitz, Walter "Der Zweite Weltkrieg 1939-1945", Stuttgart (1952), p. 125

15. Manhattan, Avro "The Vatican's Holocaust," Ozark Books (1986), Springfield, MO, pp. 76-80

16. Manhattan, Avro "The Vatican's Holocaust," Ozark Books (1986), Springfield, MO, pp. 100-104

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid.

19. Zuccotti, Susan "The Italians and the Holocaust: Persecutiuon, Rescue, and Survival," University of Nebraska Press (1996)

20. Myers, Sonja "Bosnian Serbs, Too, Have Vowed "Never Again,"" Houston Chronicle; Outlook; March 16, 1995. (Myers is a president of Texas American-Serbian Community based in Houston)

21. Czuczka, Tony (AP), "Croatians Putting Their Own Spin On Nazi History," © Seattle Times, May 22, 1997

22. "Stepinac Integrates This Century," Vecernji list, October 8, 1998, p. 2. , quoted on Website: Religions in Croatia: Catholic Church in Croatia - Past and Present,

23. Taken from the homily Stepinac delivered in the Zagreb Cathedral on October 24, 1942.

24. Petric, Tomislav (Croation Information Center ) in a press release issued in Rome and Zagreb, July 3, 1998; quoted on Website: Religions in Croatia: Catholic Church in Croatia - Past and Present,

25. Yad Vashem (The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority), was established in Jerusalem by the Israeli Knesset in 1953. Its main objective is not only to keep alive the memory of Jewish victims of the atrocities of WWII, but also to honor on those brave Gentiles who risked their lives to save the Jews throughout Europe. Yad Vashem therefore established a special honor for The Righteous among the Nations.

To date, some 70 Croatians have been awarded "The Certificate of Honor'' and "The Medal of the Righteous'' from Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Their names are inscribed on "The Honor Wall in the Garden of the Righteous'' in Jerusalem.

26. Hedges, Chris "Fascists Reborn as Croatia's Founding Fathers," April 12, 1997, ©The New York Times Company (1997), available on the Web at

27. Ibid.

28. Ibid.

Additional Reading:

Dedijer, Vladimir, ed., "The Yugoslav Auschwitz and the Vatican: The Croatian Massacre of the Serbs during World War II," Buffalo, NY: Prometheus (1992)

Eton, Peter, "Conspiracy of Silence," London: Angus (1960)

Paris, Edmond, "Genocide in Satellite Croatia, 1941-1945: A Record of Racial and Religious Persecutions and Massacres," Chicago:American Institute for Balkan Affairs (1961)

Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese, USA, "Martyrdom of the Serbs: Persecutions of the Serbian Orthodox Church and Massacre of the Serbian People," Chicago:Palandech (1943)

Maclean, Fitzroy, "Escape to Adventure," Boston:Little (1950)

Ilija Ivanovic, "Witness to Jasenovac's Hell," Dallas Publishing Company (2002)

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