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The Forum > Article Comments > When courage prevailed > Comments

When courage prevailed : Comments

By Mishka Góra, published 7/1/2013

No one likes to admit they have been duped, so it is no surprise that we have not seen headlines declaring that the history of Eastern Europe as we know it is largely based on Communist propaganda.

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Misha Gora has righted a historical wrong in presenting a factual background which restores some justice to the reputation of the Croatians.

It was automatic for many (myself included) to recoil at the very mention of the Croatians, such was the richly deserved reputation of the Ustasha quislings who ruled there under German tutelage during the war. So murderous were they that even the Germans had to consider shooting some of them to calm them down a bit. The reputation, which spilled over on to Croatians in general, was made worse by the Menzies Government in importing and cosseting Ustasha traitors as immigrants after the war, who organised (centred in Shepparton I believe) around the successor to the wartime quisling journal Spremnost which still has a GPO Box address in Sydney.

Both those Croatians described by Ms Gora and the Partisans led by Croatian-born Josip Broz Tito helped undo the German project in Yugoslavia, the former in protecting the Germans’ victims and the latter killing German occupiers on sight. Both displayed, for years, amazing self-sacrifice and courage and made the world a less-worse place. They deserve recognition and gratitude.

The real villains of the piece were the jackals who invaded and occupied Yugoslavia and those like Ante Pavelic and the senior Vatican clerics who threw in with the quislings, even helping them out to Argentina and fascist Spain after the war. The sinister role of the Roman Catholic Church, in spite of the courage of the dissenters Ms Gora describes, is outlined at A detailed and referenced article on Cardinal Stepinac by Dr Gitman is at .It looks as if the role Stepinac had to play to do the right thing didn't only fool the Nazis but also enabled the Communists to fool others.
Posted by EmperorJulian, Tuesday, 8 January 2013 1:20:38 AM
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Don't tell me they're starting up again !
Posted by individual, Tuesday, 8 January 2013 6:38:59 AM
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I have always been more than a little impatient with those who continually point out that while the 'Holocaust' happened to many millions of others beside the Jewish people but “the popularity of Holocaust literature” in many ways overshadows the horrors of what befell so many non-Jews.

I invariably point out that the Jewish people have every right, and in some ways a duty to the memory of the dead, to witness to the world what occurred in seemingly enlightened Europe. The tragedy of there not being more literature concerning the other victims is hardly their fault and besides the lessons evoked through these historical writings are in many ways universal.

Professor Jonathan Stienberg of Harvard and Cambridge Universities writes ““The omission of Croatia from the conventional Holocaust studies is like a book whose first chapter is torn out” and I totally agree that a book detailing further research of what happened in this part of the world should be of value is undeniable.

But it is hard to escape the feeling that Ms Gitman's book and the responses from Ms Gora go too far. I have not read the book, and am happy to acknowledge there could be fresh insights contained within its pages that may well give me a different perspective. But I am more than a little uncomfortable with the premise that they can deliver some form of absolution, or diminution of individuals or of the collective responsibility of the Catholic Church for the horror that occurred within the NDH on the basis of that they treated the Jews of Croatia a little more kindly than was originally thought.

I want to take nothing away from the tragedy that befell the Jewish population of Croatia during the Ustase regime. I do want to add though that around the same number of Gypsies were also slaughtered as were nearly 15 times as many orthodox Serbs, virtually all in the most horrific of circumstances.

Posted by csteele, Friday, 11 January 2013 8:35:37 PM
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Ms Gora says her perspective had been that the “Catholic Croats during World War II were enthusiastic supporters of Nazism and its puppet regime under the Ustaša leader Ante Pavelia”, a view she now believes to have been wrong.

As an 'average' Australian school kid that was certainly not my eduction. The understanding I had was that the Croatians were given licence to settle their own scores and with the support, collusion, assistance and often leadership of the Catholic clergy, undertook a slaughter of orthodox Serbians with such barbarity and magnitude that even the Nazis were taken aback. In fact there were explicit concerns voiced by them that the Croatians were so busy with these killings they were neglecting their supporting role in addressing the Jewish 'problem'.

After reading Ms Gora's piece and prior to writing this I have taken the time to do a little research and nothing I have found disavows me of that understanding.

I accept that ”ordinary Croats wrote letters of petition to the authorities requesting that their Jewish friends, neighbours, and work colleagues be released from concentration camps” but were there corresponding letters pleading for the release and the lives of Gypsies or Orthodox Serbs?

I also accept that Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac personally intervened to secure the survival of many Jews, some of whom he even gave sanctuary on church property. But I ask again what were his actions toward the Serbs and Gypsies?

I am being asked to weigh these things against the insanity that for instance occurred in the country's largest, most infamous, concentration camp, Jasenovac. It “ contributed to the Nazi "final solution" to the "Jewish problem", the killing of Roma people and the elimination of political opponents, but its most significant purpose for the Ustaše was as a means to achieve the destruction of the Serbian population of the NDH” Wikipedia.

Posted by csteele, Friday, 11 January 2013 8:38:26 PM
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“On the night of 29 August 1942, the prison guards made bets among themselves as to who could slaughter the largest number of inmates. One of the guards, Petar Brzica, boasted that he had cut the throats of about 1,360 new arrivals. Other participants who confessed to participating in the bet included Ante Zrinuši, who killed some 600 inmates, and Mile Friganovi, who gave a detailed and consistent report of the incident. Friganovi admitted to having killed some 1,100 inmates.”

They used the Srbosjek “An agricultural knife nicknamed "Srbosjek" or "Serbcutter", strapped to the hand. It was used by the Ustaše militia for the speedy killing of inmates at Jasenovac”.

The camp commander was Catholic priest Tomislav Filipovi. “ He was nicknamed by his troops "the glorious one", and he ordered that little Serbian children be brought before him, so that he could slaughter them with the traditional Ustaše weapons: the knife and gun. He and Father Zvonimir Brekalo would kill these children by cutting their necks.”

While these events could be described as the actions of errant priests to me the most damning evidence against the Church was after the collapse of the regime its leader Pavelic left and  “On arrival in Rome he was given shelter by the Vatican and stayed at a number of residences that belonged to the Vatican.”

This slate is too large and too drenched in blood ever to be 'wiped clean'. For Ms Goran and Ms Gitman to seek to do so and attribute much of this to 'communist propaganda' is to vastly overstep their brief. By all means acknowledge those who assisted in rescuing Jewish people but history and propriety should dictate that they leave it there lest they become unappointed apologists for the unforgivable.

Note all quotes unless otherwise attributed are from Wikipedia.
Posted by csteele, Friday, 11 January 2013 8:40:35 PM
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csteele, I can't help thinking that you're getting your knickers in a knot. Neither Dr Gitman nor I have said anything to warrant your comments, and I suggest you read my review more carefully and (if you are so interested in this subject) Dr Gitman's book. It, unlike Wiki articles, is the product of rigorous research and documents many of the primary sources in its appendix. In answer to your question about Stepinac, you need only to read the Wiki article on him properly to learn that he condemned the Jasenovac camp and tried to protect Serbs as well as Jews. Even the WIki article notes that his power was limited and that "Stepinac did suspend a number of priests, [but] he only had the authority to do so within his own diocese; he had no power to suspend other priests or bishops outside of Zagreb."

The Ustase (who never had any electoral support and only came to power when set up by Mussolini and Hitler after the German invasion) and the rest of the Croatian population are *not* synonymous. Indeed, the SS complained about Stepinac's "meddling", his "contacts with London", and stated in 1941: "Our objective is to eliminate the influence of the cleric [Stepinac]". You should also be a little less selective in your quotes. Re. Pavelic being sheltered in Rome, you omitted to mention that he was “disguised as a Catholic priest and using the name Don Pedro Gonner” - the sentence previous to your quote.

By the end of the war there were 250,000 soldiers in the Partisan army from within the NDH. I do not think it goes “too far” to document the truth about those who risked their lives (and often died) to fight fascism or save Jews from the Holocaust… or to acknowledge that, like France, Croatia had a notable resistance movement supported by the local population. This contradicts your “understanding” and proves my point that instead of the contemporary testimonies of people like Winston Churchill defending Stepinac as an anti-fascist we have been fed and swallowed Yugoslav Communist propaganda.
Posted by Mishka Gora, Monday, 21 January 2013 7:39:57 AM
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