Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Twice the Winners" of WW2

In April 1945, with the Soviets and their Yugoslav Communist allies approaching, the Ustasha (Croatian Nazis) tried to exterminate the surviving inmates of their principal death camp complex. The 760 women at the adjacent camp of Stara Gradiska had already been massacred. Of the 1,000-plus men in Jasenovac, 700 chose to risk a breakout on April 22. Only 90 of them succeeded.

Communist authorities were happy enough to declare the Ustasha enemies of the state, but made every effort to suppress the exact extent of their atrocities, for the sake of "brotherhood and unity" in the new Yugoslavia. Yet there is no question that a genocide happened. There was clear intent, manifested in speeches, official proclamations and laws of the "Independent State of Croatia" (NDH) There were the countless pits in Herzegovina and Dalmatia, where butchered Serb civilians were disposed of until Italian outrage put a stop to it. By then, the Jasenovac complex had become operational, with death camps not just for men, but for women and even children. German sources suggest anywhere between 750,000 and one million dead, between the pits and the camps.

In 1941, there were 2 million Serbs in territories claimed by the NDH. In 1991, there were almost as many in the same territories - now claimed by Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Yet the overall population of Yugoslavia had grown from just over 15 million in 1948 (after the war and genocide) to 23.5 million in 1991. You do the math. 

Today the Croatian leadership - President Josipović, Prime Minister Milanović and speaker of the parliament Šprem - visited the Jasenovac memorial and swore that "fascist, Nazi and Ustasha ideas will never again" hold sway in Croatia. Well, why should they, having served their purpose?

The few Serbs remaining in Croatia live in fear and face constant abuse and discrimination. Yet when they tried to rebel against Franjo Tuđman's Ustasha revival in 1990, they were branded "aggressors" and the Empire funded, trained and supported their destruction - specifically, "Operation Storm," the mass ethnic cleansing campaign of August 1995. Since the anniversary of "Storm" is a national holiday in Croatia ("Homeland Thanksgiving Day"), the very same officials who were in Jasenovac today will see nothing wrong in celebrating come August. 

It brings to mind the words of Josipović's predecessor, Stjepan Mesić, who once said
"in the Second World War, the Croats won twice and we have no reason to apologize to anyone... We won on 10 April [1941] when the Axis Powers recognized Croatia as a state, and we won because we sat after the war, again with the winners, at the winning table." (BBC Monitoring; December 10, 2006)
Sure enough, in 1945, the Communist leader Tito "punished" Croatian atrocities by creating a large Croatian republic in the federated Yugoslavia. In 1991, with the backing of Berlin, Vienna and the Vatican, Franjo Tuđman declared this republic an independent state. Croatia was admitted to NATO in 2009. Next year it will be joining the European Union. American weapons, propaganda and diplomacy served the same Croatian agenda in 1991-95 as Hitler's had half a century prior. 

Lest there be any doubt as to the character of that "Croatia as a state," here are just three wartime posters (more can be found here) testifying to the relationship between Zagreb and Berlin:  

"United Europe fights in the East", poster for the 1942 exhibit in Zagreb. Nazi eagle, center; Croatian checkerboard over to the right 

"Great Leaders Adolf Hitler and poglavnik Dr. Ante Pavelić call on you to defend your homes - join the volunteer Croatian SS!" And yes, that's a mosque over on the right, and one of the SS is wearing a fez.

"A German victory is a victory for Europe: the German-Croatian brotherhood in arms"
All this ought to make you wonder who really won WW2.


robert49rml said...

Your last question is unfortunately rhetorical.

Shule said...

An authentic comment on a very biased post (

"Hm, I still have a bad taste after I did an interview with some
supposedly political prisoners in Belgrade Central Prison in December
2000. They said they were victims of arbitrary arrest by the Serbian
police, and I wrote their story in Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.
After international pressure these prisoners were released, and a couple
of months later I met one of them in Pristina. He gave me a big smile
and said that even if he said to me that he was never UCK, he had lied
to me and Serbian authorities. He was not a political prisoner.

In this article I react to David Phillips choosing the headline Serbia
is showing its anti-European side. Having a critical distance to the EU
is not the same as being anti-European. In Kosovo, there seems to be a
consensus that they want to be members, but there is much less respect
for the rule of law in Kosovo than in Serbia, but why is not Kosovo
criticized for showing its anti-European side?

Phillips has pretty strong statements about Hasan Abazi's innocence, but
his perspective is totally one-sided. What if the Serbian charges are
correct? Should he not answer for the crimes he allegedly has committed?
When did an Albanian last apologize for crimes committed against Serbs
and non-Albanians?

For those who do not know who I am, I can say that I am the former Norwegian NATO officer who gave a personal apology to the Serbian people for not being able to protect Serbs and non-Albanians. Read more on: "

Gray Falcon said...

Ah, I remember you, sir - thank you for posting this.

David Phillips of the CFR has made a career out of supporting "Kosovians", so I'm not at all surprised he's once again maligning the Serbs.

As for your question, there seems to be a strange new "logic" in effect in the West, wherein it doesn't matter what is done, so much as who is doing it. So, Albanians can do no wrong, while Serbs can do no right.

I also owe you my thanks for posting that translation of the Norwegian news report in 2004, which debunked the Bosnia death toll fabrications. When I first heard your name last year, I knew it sounded familiar - and then I looked through my archive, and understood why.

balkaninfo said...

The former Nazi Party member Genscher did not forget this old relationship and enforced the recreation of Croatia. The required armament supply was organized by the German intelligence service (created by Nazi general Reinhard Gehlen and other nazis after WW2) that fully cooperated with the Ustashe since the 60s.

"We must force Serbia to its knees", is the official goal of German foreign policy. They even sent German Nazi soldiers to this recreated Croatia to celebrate thier victory with "Sieg Heil" and "Heil Hitler".

Shule said...

I just posted the comment of Kars on that post, I am not Kars :)

I went on reading your older posts, and I must say that I agree with most of your writings.

One thing, however, I can't understand, and that is your refusal (in a way) to accept the existence of the Macedonians as a separate ethnicity.

Being a Macedonian myself, I want to point out that being a patriot should include granting others the right to feel the same about their own heritage. Especially since I think that the Macedonians aren't aggressive towards the Serbs and respect them. It seems to me that you're going right along with the Bulgarians and the Greeks in addressing the Macedonians in pejorative terms (to say the least).

Gray Falcon said...

Ah, I see. I should have paid attention to the quotes. But still - thanks.

As far as I know, Serb treatment of Macedonians is nothing like that extended to you by Bulgarians and Greeks. Modern Macedonia is the territory liberated from the Ottomans by Serbia. So the Serbs (myself included) absolutely recognize the existence of the Macedonian identity and state as a fact - unlike any other neighbor of yours.

Does this mean one ought not be critical of the ludicrous theories about the modern Macedonians' antique origins? Or gloss over the role of Tito's "nation-building" in shaping the modern Macedonian identity? I think not.

While I absolutely don't consider you "Serbs with a severe speech impediment", as the politically incorrect joke goes, I do consider you kinfolk. And I fully sympathize with the tragedy that your "reward" for being all friendly to the Empire is to be partitioned between Albania and Bulgaria.

But if I'm going to get the "you Serb chauvinist, respect our identity!" speech every time I defend you, I don't see why I ought to bother.

Shule said...

I would never presume to call anyone a chauvinist, without a good reason. And, I don't see any reason to do so when I read your posts on this blog.

But, since you write about the history of the Balkans and how it shapes the present, sometimes I feel the need to comment and tell "the Macedonian side of the story".

I know for a fact (family history, etc.) that people calling themselves Macedonians (not in the Hellenic sense, nor "of Bulgarian descent") existed well before the events that transpired in 1912-1913. The fact that Tito allowed the Macedonians to constitute (for the first time) their own administrative unit in the modern sense can be labeled by what it was - a state building, but not nation building. The Macedonian nation was already there. And, in 1991, it constituted its own nation-state (the fact that it squandered it in 2001 is another story).

Further, don't see why the Macedonians have not got the right to (if they choose so) invoke their connection to the Macedonians of ancient time. We have that right as much as the Greeks (Hellenes) do when invoking their ancient roots. The fact is that the Macedonians of old have never been conclusively proven to be Hellenes (in the ancient sense; whatever that means in the modern nation / state paradigm is yet another story) and we do share the same geographical coordinates (less so since 1913, thanks to the Greeks who "liberated" their ancient stomping grounds - if one subscribes to their propaganda).

Things are always more complicated than one can say in a two-sentence reply, hence the length of this post.

Gray Falcon said...

Fair enough. As a historian by training, I am always curious to track down (credible) contemporary sources, so if you can point me the way of some good Macedonian history, I'd appreciate it.

Modern Greeks can trace their culture at the very least to the Byzantines. I'm not sure how much of the Hellenistic traditions survived under Rome, and the age of the poleis is truly ancient history.

So little is known of actual ancient and medieval history - those murky waters are a favorite hunting ground of politically motivated pseudo-historians - that I'm always leery of making claims to a continuum that cannot be backed by evidence. Take, for example, the famous "Illyrian hypothesis" the Albanians have embraced, which has been conclusively disproven.

In any case, a nation's future isn't going to be determined by its history, real or fabricated, but the ability to defend its territory and identity. Sadly, both the Serbs and the Macedonians presently appear to be failing on that account.

Shule said...

I wholeheartedly agree with the last paragraph of your last comment.

As for credible sources, they are hard to find, since history depends so much on interpretation. Take a look at this: and maybe you'll find some of the texts useful.

Gray Falcon said...

Thank you. I'll give it a look.