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(en) The Internet Anti-Fascist: Wed, 20 May 98--2:31 (#115)

From Paul Kneisel <tallpaul@nyct.net>
Date Tue, 26 May 1998 22:22:36 -0400

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E


            The Internet Anti-Fascist: Wednesday, 20 May 98
                       Vol. 2, Number 31 (#115)

The issue of the role played by the Vatican in the commission of
international war crimes is one of the most important ones facing anti-
fascist historians and activists today. Professor Barry Lituchy has
written a special introduction to this dispute for The Internet Anti-

Lituchy's document will be printed in two parts. There is also an FTP
Supplement listed at the end of Part I in this issue.

                                 - - - - -

                   PART I: WHAT IS THE VATICAN HIDING?

        The Vatican's Complicity in Genocide in Fascist Croatia:
              The Suppressed Chapter of Holocaust History

                           by Barry Lituchy
                              10 May 1998
                [special to The Internet Anti-Fascist]

Fourteen years ago the U.S. Government de-classified the now famous "La
Vista Report" of May 15, 1947, a top-secret U.S. Army Intelligence
report documenting the Vatican's role in aiding the escape of numerous
high-ranking Nazi war criminals, among them Ante Pavelic, fascist
leader of wartime Croatia; Franz Stangel, Commander of Treblinka;
Eduard Roschmann, "the Butcher of Riga"; Klaus Barbie, "the Butcher of
Lyon"; SS General Walter Rauff, inventor of the mobile gas truck; Adolf
Eichmann, "architect of the Holocaust"; and tens of thousands of
others.  Writing about the document prior to its release,
internationally renowned Nazi hunter Charles R. Allen Jr.  noted that
in light of the revelations contained in this and other classified
documents about the role of the Vatican in the Holocaust it would be
logical and proper that

   "A commission of inquiry into these concerns including 
   Jewish and Catholic scholars ought to be established to
   locate and examine all documentation in all relevant
   archives so that collectively they may determine what role
   both the Vatican and US Intelligence played in aiding 
   and abetting the escape of some of history's most
   notorious murderers. (1)
Logical, that is, if one assumed that the Vatican truly wanted to get
to the bottom of what really happened, and maybe even try to atone for
some of the injustices it committed.  But fourteen years after the
fact, with the release of the Vatican's official statement on "the
mistakes" of the Catholic Church during the Holocaust, we now can see
how overly optimistic that assumption was.  The "La Vista Report" was
documentary evidence that opened a window on a suppressed chapter of
the Holocaust:  the role of the Vatican in the Holocaust.  The
Vatican's report "We Remember, a Reflection on the Shoah (Holocaust),"
issued this past March makes it abundantly clear that the Catholic
Church is determined to do all that it can to shut that window as
tightly as it can, and to keep it shut forever.  Forget the idea of a
commission -- the Vatican has no intention of opening its archives or
admitting anything other than "...the errors and failures of those sons
and daughters of the Church" who did not "give every possible
assistance to those being persecuted, and in particular ... Jews." 

Far from suggesting that the Vatican did anything wrong, the document
instead tries to portray the role of the Church during the Holocaust in
a mostly positive light, insisting that "many" members of the Church
did "give every possible assistance" -- implying that those who didn't
were a minority, and going on to claim that the Vatican
categorically condemned and opposed fascism and Nazism, making
reference to pronouncements that at best are equivocal.  It also claims
that "Jewish communities and Jewish leaders expressed their thanks for
all that had been done for them...," a cynical manipulation of a half-
truth if there ever was one.  And to top it all off the document tries
to argue that fascism and genocide were incompatible with Catholic
teachings:  "...the work of a thoroughly neo-pagan regime. Its anti-
Semitism had its roots outside of Christianity...." (2)  Certainly not
the view of the tens of thousands of Catholic clergy all around the
world who warmly embraced fascism and joined its ranks from Berlin to
Detroit (Have they forgotten our own "dear" Father Coughlin?). 

What all of this amounts to is a staggering lie of gigantic
proportions, a total whitewash of the crimes committed by the Catholic
Church and the Papacy before, during and after the Holocaust.  It is
worthwhile that we now review some of the media response to this
deliberate falsification of history before we examine some of the facts
this most recent Vatican document conveniently "forgot" to mention. 

The Vatican document is the result of a sophisticated public relations
campaign aimed at improving its image with both Jews and the American
public by shirking responsibility for its crimes before, during and
after the Holocaust while pinning all of the blame on others.  This
necessarily involves a deliberate falsification and suppression of the
historical record.  The New York Times was correct when it predicted
that the document would try to put as much distance between itself and
the Holocaust as possible.  Even anti-Semitism is portrayed as the
result of "wrong-headed Christian thinkers," not the papacy or its
clergy.(3)  As one CNN reporter put it, "the Pope has steered clear of
blaming the church itself."(4) 

Thus, the Vatican's "memory" is highly selective.  The "errors"  the
Vatican is willing to recall are limited only to those of omission, not
commission..  In other words, the errors of the Church during the
Holocaust are defined only as the silence or indifference of the Church
in the face of crimes of genocide, a failure to speak out.  The Vatican
--and apparently many journalists -- would like us to believe that this
is the limit of wrongdoing.  Defined out of the discussion are
complicity in or support for these crimes -- not to mention active
participation in deportations, expropriations, forced conversions, and
mass murder of a specific people, that is to say, genocide itself.  As
long as the role of the Vatican in the Holocaust is defined in this
way, it safely avoids serious examination of the much worse crimes it
did commit. 

We shall return to these matters presently.  First, some credit should
be paid to those who have openly criticized the Vatican for its
mendacity.  To its credit CNN presented an interview with Israel's Chef
Rabbi, Meir Lau, who was forthright in his condemnation of this
atrociously retrograde document and who focused attention on the actual
historical role of Pope Pius XII, whom he called "an accomplice to Nazi
murderers."(5)  There are many good reasons for this designation: Pius
XII's (then Eugenio Pacelli) efforts as Papal Nuncio in Germany were
central to bringing Germany's Catholic Center Party close to Nazism in
the 1920's, and then to cementing the agreement between the Vatican and
Hitler known as the Concordat of 1933. Pacelli's support for Hitlerism
in its early stages is historical record, and preventing the disclosure
of the full scope of this support is one of the reasons the Vatican
will not open its archives from this period.

Indeed, Pius XII brings us to the real heart of the matter, and Pope
John Paul II's response to the question of the wartime Pope's
culpability reveals the real design behind the Vatican's report.  John
Paul II has consistently defended Pius XII, often in a truculent
manner.  The current Pope has made it clear that he will do his part to
uphold the doctrine of Papal infallibility.  One of his speeches during
a trip to Germany in 1995 even contained a passage attacking all
criticisms of Pius XII as "cheap polemics."(6) This kind of attack is
part of a pre-emptive strategy aimed at creating an unreceptive climate
for scholarship or discussion dealing with the role of the Vatican. 
Once again the Church finds itself fighting to prove that the world is

But more importantly it exposes the motives behind this recent report,
which shares certain similarities with some interpretations of the
Holocaust.  By placing blame on wrong-headed individuals in the Church
and denying any wrong doing by the Pope or Vatican, the Church is
shifting responsibility from its leaders and from the institution
itself to the rank and file followers, in effect side stepping all
blame whatsoever.  Thus, the Church really is completely innocent --
it's the sheep, not the shepherd who are responsible!  The similarities
with the manner in which the ruling elites in Germany prefer to
interpret the Holocaust are quite striking.  In Germany, authors like
Daniel Goldhagen are all the rage because books like Hitler's Willing
Executioners blur responsibility for the rise of Nazism by taking the
focus off of the capitalist and aristocratic elites and institutions
who backed Hitler (many of which were left unscathed by the so-called
de-Nazification of post-war Germany) and putting it on the popular
culture and working masses instead.  Not having their own Goldhagen to
rely on, the Catholic Church has to hustle this cheap shell game

       The Vatican's Role: A Suppressed Chapter of the Holocaust

If we consider for a moment the manner in which the phenomenon of
genocide has been treated in the twentieth century by both historians
and governments, in general we can say that it often has been cynically
exploited for political purposes.  When it suited the Western powers,
they criticized the genocide of Armenians by Turkey in World War I. 
But after Turkey became a bulwark against the Soviet Union and a
military ally, this chapter of twentieth century history was suppressed
-- and largely remains so to this day.  Most historians in this country
are still unwilling to consider the mass extermination of Native
American peoples or the deaths of millions of Africans during slavery
as acts of genocide, legally sanctioned by this country.  At the U.S. 
Holocaust Museum the history of the Holocaust has been tailored to fit
the political fashions of the Clinton administration and the New World
Order: hence, one finds the words "Serbs" and "Russians" are altogether
absent from the official record of the Holocaust, and instead are
replaced in the most obscene Orwellian manner by the words "Yugoslavs"
and "Soviets."  A most vicious and ironic cover up, considering that
the U.S. today does not even recognize the existence of these states or
peoples.  In all of these cases we see instances of the suppression of
the history of genocide against certain peoples for clearly political
purposes (not least of which is the desire to target these same peoples
for future destruction).  The role of the U.S. and British governments
in protecting and employing Nazi and fascist mass murderers will also
probably not be fully disclosed or incorporated into history books in
our lifetimes. 

But nowhere has the truth been hijacked and suppressed more than in
regard to that one chapter of the Holocaust that historians still
hesitate to confront: the Vatican's role in fascist Croatia.  The story
of the Holocaust in wartime Croatia is absent from many scholarly
discussions of the Holocaust and from most Holocaust museums in this
country.  It is an odd omission considering the fact that if one
defines the Holocaust from the first mass murders of civilians, then
the Holocaust itself began in Croatia with the first murders of Serbs,
Jews and Gypsies by the Croatian fascist regime in April 1941 -- some
nine months before the Wannsee Conference, more than two months before
the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.  It is like a book whose first
chapter is torn out. 

What then are the political reasons for the systematic and
deliberate suppression of the history of the Holocaust in Croatia? 
There are several, and they are all connected to vital geo-political
considerations of the leading Western powers. One is the leading role
that Croatian fascist war criminals played in establishing the
"ratline" escape routes of European fascism after the war and their
enormous contributions to U.S.  and British intelligence agencies
during the Cold War.  Another was the American and British governments'
refusal to return for trial and punishment to post-war Yugoslavia
Croatian war criminals in particular, thus violating the Moscow
Declaration of 1943 in which they had sworn to do so.  Still another
was the long range goal of U.S. and Western imperialism to partition
and destroy Communist Yugoslavia, a plan which depended on the support
of the thousands of escaped Croatian fascists subsidized by the U.S.
for decades in anticipation of this long sought goal.(7)  The need to
suppress such information from the public and from political discourse
is obvious: a self-proclaimed moral superiority based on genocide is a
fraud the whole world can see. 

But all of these justifications pale in comparison to the importance
placed on suppressing the truth about the Vatican's and the Catholic
Church's role in the Holocaust in fascist Croatia.  For in Croatia, the
question of what role the Catholic Church played in the Holocaust is
not limited to the relatively minor issues of whether they did or spoke
out enough against it -- here the question concerns the role of the
Church and the Vatican in running concentration camps and in carrying
out a religiously inspired genocide. Nowhere is the role of the Vatican
more worthy of investigation, and nowhere has that role received less

                    Vatican Sponsorship of Fascism

To understand the Vatican's role and motives in the Holocaust in
Yugoslavia we need to understand the phenomenon of genocide as a
product of modern imperialism. Genocide is a direct consequence of
imperialist wars of conquest aimed at territorial expansion for
economic, political and military domination.  After World War I the
Vatican was determined, like its fascist partners of Italy and Germany,
to destroy the Yugoslav state and reconstitute in that region the power
and influence the Papacy had lost with the collapse of the Austro-
Hungarian empire. 

The Yugoslav state emerged out of the century long struggle of the
peoples of the Balkans to overcome colonial oppression.  The idea of a
federation of Balkan peoples had its roots in the struggles against
first Turkish and then Austrian-German and other Western domination. 
It was born of the realism of Balkan political leaders in the
nineteenth century that small nations by themselves cannot defend
themselves against the great imperialist powers, but that together they
might be able to do so.  It was this ideal that Yugoslavia in a
truncated form represented, and that German and Italian fascism were
determined to annihilate.(8) 

The Vatican was also determined to destroy Yugoslavia, though for its
own reasons.  The dismemberment of the Catholic Austro-Hungarian Empire
was a catastrophe for the Catholic Church.  The Vatican was no longer
the supreme religious authority in Central and Eastern Europe and had
lost the state foundations on which citizens owed a dual allegiance to
Church and state.  Its disappearance marked a sharp decline in the
Church's world power and influence.  Worse still was the replacement of
the Austro-Hungarian Empire with states dominated by other religions in
which Catholics sank to a minority status.  The worst of the bunch was
Yugoslavia which was ruled by a King of the Serbian Eastern Orthodox
faith, a church that the Vatican viewed as a "schismatic sect."  From 
the Vatican's point of view, this "schismatic sect" was a cancer, to be

The Vatican had done all it could to support the Austrian and German
war effort in 1914 against Serbia and considered Serbia as the "evil"
behind the war.  In his report of July 29, 1914 to the Austrian Foreign
Minister Berchtold, the Austrian charge d'affairs to the Vatican, Count
Palffy reported the views of the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal
Marry del Val, who, speaking on behalf of then Pope Pius X

   "...expressed the hope that the monarchy would go through 
   to the end... [and] the opinion that it is a pity that
   Serbia wasn't made smaller much earlier.... The Pope and the
   Curia see Serbia as a destructive disease which is slowly 
   eating away at the Monarchy to its very essence and which 
   will eventually destroy it.... Austria is and remains a
   Catholic state par excellence, the strongest bulwark of 
   Christ's Church in this century.  The demolition of this 
   bulwark would mean for the Church the loss of its firmest 
   support.  It would lose its strongest defender. Therefore, 
   for this reason, just as it is necessary for 
   Austria, for the sake of its self-preservation to get its
   organism rid, if necessary by force, of the evil which is
   eating away at it, so it is indirectly necessary for the
   Church to do everything that could serve this purpose."(9)

In August 1914 the Vatican encouraged its clergy to rally the Catholic
populations of Croatia and Slovenia to fight Serbia, portraying the
conflict as a holy war against the very "enemy of Jesus," i.e.: the
Serbs.  The Bishop of Ljubljana, Anton Jeglich, called on the Slovenian

   "...to take arms and defend Catholic Austria and our
   Catholic imperial family from the sworn enemy of Jesus
   himself....let us fight the enemies of God, against 
   the enemies of Catholic Austria, against the enemies of
   the Catholic Habsburg house."(10)

Combined with the Catholic fanaticism encouraged by the Vatican was the
extreme racial violence expressed toward the Serbs throughout
Austria-Hungary and summed up in the popular jingle of August 1914:
"Alle Serben mussen sterben!"(11)  This blending of Catholic fanaticism
and racial violence toward the Serbs born in the last days of the
Habsburg Empire and sponsored by the Vatican prefigured the later
emergence of Croatian fascism.  Indeed, in World War I, one out of
every four male Serbs would be killed -- a dress rehearsal, one might
say, for the greater genocide to come. 

Having lost its "strongest bulwark" with the end of the first World
War, the Vatican turned to Mussolini and fascist Italy to defend it and
its long range goals. Likewise, the Vatican threw its support behind
Mussolini's imperialist ambitions for fascist Italy.  The aims of the
two Italian dictatorships were quite similar.  Both were implacable
enemies of the Yugoslav state seeking its destruction: the Pope wished
to carve out a Catholic majority state from its northern half;
Mussolini sought to annex parts of Slovenia, the Dalmatian coast, and
Montenegro, along with Albania and Kosovo, so that he might "turn the
Adriatic into an Italian lake." 

The origins of fascism in the Balkans can be traced directly back to
Mussolini and the imperialist ambitions of fascist Italy, as well as to
the generous support provided to them by the Catholic Church in
Croatia.  It was Mussolini's fascist state that originally financed and
sponsored nationalist extremist political movements in the Balkans,
transforming them ideologically and organizationally into full blown
genocidal, fascist parties.  According to the diary of Mussolini's
foreign minister Ciano, the Italian government financed Croatian
fascism at the level of around 25 million lire a year in the 1920's and
1930's.(12)  By 1934 Italy's investments in Croatian fascism paid
handsome dividends when on October 9th King Alexander of Yugoslavia was
assassinated by Croatian fascists in Marseilles, France along with the
French Foreign Minister Barthou, both of them obstacles to the fascist
domination of Europe. 

The Vatican was kept apprised of fascist strategic planning in both
Rome and Berlin through the 1930's right up to the invasion of
Yugoslavia.  In May 1940 the Archbishop of Zagreb, Aloysius Stepinac,
was called to the Vatican for briefings on the future invasion and
partition of Yugoslavia.(13)  In the years immediately preceding the
German and Italian invasion of Yugoslavia of April 1941, the head of
the Catholic Church in Yugoslavia, Stepinac, met regularly with
representatives from both the Italian foreign ministry and the illegal
Ustasha terrorist organization, as Stepinac himself noted in his
diary.(14)  Among these visitors was the future Ustasha Minister of
Education Mile Budak, a chief architect of the genocide in Croatia, who
is best known for his infamous speech on the final solution for the
Serbs: "We will kill a third, expel a third, and convert a third."(15) 

The three nationalist movements that Italian fascism took under its
wing were the Croatian, Albanian and Macedonian nationalist movements. 
The only one of these three that would graduate under Italian (later
also German) fascist tutelage and financing, from a loose terrorist
organization into a fully mature fascist movement was the Croatian
Ustasha.  Its success in becoming the largest and most mature of these
fascist movements was in large part due to the considerable
institutional support the Catholic Church in Croatia could provide -- a
factor altogether absent in the Albanian and Macedonian cases. 

The leadership of the Church was well aware of the leading role it was
expected to play in the soon to be independent, fascist Croatian state. 
In the years prior to 1941 the Croatian fascist movement recruited
members of legal Croatian nationalist parties and from within the
Yugoslav military with the help and encouragement of the Croatian
Catholic Church. Not only did the Croatian Catholic clergy meet
secretly in the years prior to 1941 with Italian fascist agents to help
prepare for the final destruction of Yugoslavia, but they provided the
Ustasha with all of the vast resources at its disposal, including its
buildings and monasteries for meetings and safe-houses.  The
operational headquarters in which the plans for the Ustasha take-over
were made was in the Franciscan monastery at Chuntich. Monasteries,
parish houses, cathedrals, Franciscan high schools, seminaries, etc.,
throughout Croatia doubled as meeting places, recruiting centers, arms
depots and staging areas for Croatian fascism and terror in the years
prior to the war. We know this to be true because the Croatian fascists
themselves boasted of it when they came to power in 1941 in their
official publications and on the memorial plaques they affixed to these

If the Vatican criticized Nazi Germany in the last half of the 1930's,
it had less to do with fascism than with Hitler's imperialist conflicts
with Mussolini over the fate of Central Europe.  The Vatican's
interests were more in line with those of Mussolini's: a "Pan-Danubian"
confederation of Catholic states centered around Austria and Hungary as
the core of a restored Catholic empire.(17)  The Ustashi too favored a
reconstitution of the old Habsburg empire following the destruction of
Yugoslavia.  But by the time Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, Mussolini
had to face facts and reach a tacit agreement with Hitler over who
would call the shots.  Moreover, the Munich agreement in the fall of
1938 signaling the end of Czechoslovakia, and Hitler's creation of the
clerical-fascist puppet state of Slovakia several months later, proved
to Croatian fascists (if they had any doubts by then) that Hitler was
their real fuhrer, not Mussolini.  Hitler had wanted to put off the
destruction of Yugoslavia until after Britain and the Soviet Union were
defeated. But Mussolini's mucked up invasion of Greece forced the
issue, much to the delight of the Croatian fascists -- and the Catholic
Church in Croatia.

It is assumed that Pius XII would have preferred Mussolini's leadership
in Central Europe to Hitler's.  But Hitler's creation of two semi-
independent clerical fascist states out of the remnants of
Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia certainly showed a great deal of
consideration for the Vatican's interests as an ally.  Besides, the
Vatican recognized that of the three major alternatives for Central
Europe, Nazi Germany may have been a less desirable arbiter than
Fascist Italy, but still a whole lot better than Soviet Russia.  And in
the end, faced with larger problems, Hitler granted the Italian and
Croatian fascists and the Vatican most of what they wanted anyway.(18) 

Why did Hitler create two independent clerical-fascist states which
considered themselves vassals of the papacy?  The answer to this
question explains why historians hardly ever mention Slovakia and
Croatia in their discussions of World War II or the Holocaust: because
the Vatican was a silent partner in the Axis alliance, as well as in
the Holocaust. 

                        The Vatican's Holocaust

The Croatian Catholic Church and the Vatican were directly
involved in helping the fascist regime in Croatia carry out a triple
genocide against Serbs, Jews and Romas from 1941 to 1945 in every
possible way.  By the time they were done, they had killed one million
people.  The Catholic Church assisted the Croatian fascists in every
aspect of their murderous rule, from open political and financial
support, to serving in their military units in every phase of the war,
to serving in their government, to participating in arrests,
expropriations, deportations, forced conversions and mass murders of
racially persecuted peoples.  Catholic Priests even served as
concentration camp commanders in some of the worst death camps of World
War II.  And it was all done with the full knowledge and support of
Pope Pius XII and the Vatican.(19) 

On April 10, 1941 the Independent State of Croatia was declared by
Ustashi arriving in Zagreb with Nazi troops during the Nazi's invasion
and dismemberment of Yugoslavia which began on April 6 and continued
until the surrender of the Yugoslav government on April 17. While
30,000 were killed by the Luftwaffe in the bombing of Belgrade, Zagreb
and Croatia were left untouched and the Nazis were greeted like heroes
in the streets of Zagreb.  Once again much of the responsibility for
preparing public support for Nazism in Croatia lies with the Catholic
Church, which had published articles in its publications as early as
1939 calling for an independent Croatia.  In 1940 an article appeared
in the official Church publication "Catholic List"  praising Mein Kampf
and adding that there was no conflict between being a good Catholic and
a good Nazi.(20)  Indeed, similar articles were published by
innumerable Catholic clergy all over Europe in the 1930's and 1940's. 
Urged on by the Catholic clergy, thousands of Croatian officers and
soldiers in the Yugoslav army deserted to the Nazi-Ustasha side as did
a large part of the membership of the popular Croatian Peasant Party. 

While the Ustashi rode to power on the backs of the Nazi Wehrmacht,
units of Ustasha soldiers fought alongside them. Among the very first
armed divisions of the Ustasha army were numerous Catholic priests. 
The military exploits of one priest, Ilija Tomas of Klepac, were hailed
in the Croatian fascist publication "Hrvatski Narod" on July 25,
1941.(21) Another Catholic publication "Nedelja"  praised the military
exploits of dozens of priests, especially those in monastic orders such
as the Franciscan Radovan Glavas, and the priest Ivan Miletic who led
Croatian fascists in joint battle with Wehrmacht forces.(22) Priests
who led Catholic organizations in Croatia and Bosnia such as the
"Crusaders Brotherhood" and "Catholic Action," which had tens of
thousands of members, established military units within them and were
used as recruiting centers for the Ustasha military.(23)  These are not
unique examples. The entire Catholic press in this period in Croatia
was thoroughly pro-fascist, racist and supportive of the elimination of
the "minorities." 

The leader of the Catholic Church in Croatia, Archbishop Stepinac,
fervently supported the Ustasha movement and welcomed the invading Nazi
army as it entered Zagreb.  On April 11th he met with Ustasha leaders
and on April 12th he blessed the newly arrived Ustasha leadership in a
public ceremony at his cathedral.  In his Easter address of that month
he compared the creation of the new fascist state to the resurrection
of Christ. In his pastoral letter of April 28th he ordered the clergy
and called upon all Catholic people of Croatia and Bosnia to follow
their "Poglavnik"  (Fuhrer) Ante Pavelic, for he had seen in Pavelic's
rule "God's hand in action."(24) The pastoral letter was read over the
radio and in every Catholic parish in fascist Croatia. 

Stepinac met with the Croatian Fuhrer when he arrived from Italy on
April 16th. That evening Stepinac held a dinner party in his residence
in honor of Pavelic and the Ustasha leadership. In his diary, Stepinac
described the day and admitted that Pavelic told him of his plans to
"exterminate" the non-Catholic religions in Croatia.  Stepinac's diary
indicates that he too was prepared for an all out religious war, for he
added that "If that man (Pavelic) rules Croatia for ten years....
Croatia will be a paradise on earth."(25) 

There is no question that Stepinac knew of the Ustasha's plans for
committing genocide even before they came to power.  After Stepinac's
death in 1960, Ilija Jukic, a leading member of the Croatian Peasant
Party, wrote of how he had told Stepinac in March 1941 that the
Pavelic-Budak group "were thinking of applying Hitler's methods to the
Serbs in Croatia if they ever came to power." Stepinac disingenuously
told Jukic that he would look into it.(26)  But Stepinac already was
resolved on an attitude of passive acceptance of genocide, as is
revealed from entries in his diary, such as one from 1940 when he
wrote: "... the Serbs have not learned anything... and in the end they
will lose everything.... I wish them no evil because they are God's
children.  But if nothing can teach them a lesson, distress will."(27) 

Of course, Stepinac was easily outdone in fascist criminality by other
high ranking clergy, most infamously by the second highest ranking
cleric in fascist Croatia, the Archbishop of Sarajevo, Ivan Sharich --
called "the Hangman of Serbs"  by his fellow Ustashi.  Sharich had been
a secret member of the Ustasha since 1934, and had been in close
contact with them at least since 1931.  Whereas Stepinac was willing to
spare the lives of some Jews and Serbs who had converted to
Catholicism, Sharich ridiculed those who did not have the stomach for
total genocide, declaring it "stupid and unworthy of Christ's disciples
to think that the struggle against evil could be waged in a noble way
and with gloves on."  Among Vatican documents that have emerged is one
dealing with Sharich's personal expropriations of property belonging to
Jews in Bosnia(28) 

Since the Ustasha wished Croatia to be a vassal of the papacy, Catholic
clergy held high positions at every level of the fascist government. 
In the majority of towns and villages throughout the newly created
fascist state, Catholic clergy became the official Ustasha authority. 
A certain number of seats in the fascist "Sabor" were reserved for
Bishops including Stepinac and Sharich.  Pavelic included several
priest-advisors and a personal confessor in his cabinet.  In its
inaugural radio address to the nation on April 11, 1941, the new
fascist government instructed the population to apply to their local
priest for further instructions, indicating again that the fascist
take-over was planned in advance with the complete knowledge of the
Church hierarchy. (29)  When Pavelic fled the country in 1945 he turned
over the reigns of state leadership to Stepinac.  Thus, it truly was a
clerical-fascist state in praxis as well as theory. 

In its ideology, Croatian fascism combined extreme Roman Catholic
fanaticism, Nazi eugenics and Croatian chauvinism, creating perhaps the
most psychotic political movement of all time.  Pavelic was obsessed
with Croatia's racial purity on both biological and religious grounds. 
The Ustashi claimed that the Croats were not Slavs but rather of the
"Aryan race," descendants of the Germanic Goths.  However, unlike the
Nazis, the Ustashi's leading racist theorists were Catholic clergy,
like Dr. Ivo Guberina, a priest and leading Ustasha emigre, whose
writings reconciling religious purification with racial hygiene lent a
spurious scientific veneer to Ustasha propaganda.(30)  Croatia had to
be purified of its "foreign elements," namely Serbs, Jews and Romas.
Purification for the Ustashi always meant extermination; they never hid
their desire to commit genocide.  In the 1930's they were already known
for songs with verses like: "We shall hang Serbs on the willows"
("Serbe o verbe"), and "We shall tear their children out of their

The Italian and German fascists were astonished by the speed with which
the Ustashi initiated their systematic policy of genocide. Already on
April 18, 1941 the very first racial law, on "the Aryanization of
Jewish property" was issued.  Other racial laws of the Independent
State of Croatia promulgated in April 1941 included laws ordering Serbs
to wear blue bands on their sleeves with the letter "P" (for Orthodox),
and Jews a band with the Star of David and the letter "Z" (for Jew),
along with laws forbidding Serbs and Jews to walk on sidewalks and
ordering the posting of signs in public places stating "No Serbs, Jews,
Gypsies or Dogs Allowed!"  In May 1941 laws carefully defining Serbs,
Jews and Romas (as well as anti-fascist Croats)  as "undesirable
peoples" directed what was to be done with them: their rounding up, the
dispossession of their property, and their deportation to death camps. 
Laws on the rounding up, dispossessing and deportation of the families
of undesirables as well, including children, were issued later that
same month.  Racial laws regulating all aspects of society continued to
be issued in the weeks and months to follow. Bound volumes of these
published laws are available in the European Law Division of the
Library of Congress.

The so-called Ustasha Minister of Education, Dr. Mile Budak, summarized
the racial policy of Croatia in a speech on July 22, 1941 in Gospic
when he said:

   "The movement of the Ustashi is based on religion. For 
   the minorities -- Serbs, Jews and Gypsies, we have three
   million bullets. We shall kill one part of the Serbs. 
   We shall deport another, and the rest of them will be
   forced to embrace the Roman Catholic religion.  Thus, our 
   new Croatia will get rid of all Serbs in our midst in order 
   to become one hundred percent Catholic within ten years."(32)

Meanwhile the foreign minister of fascist Croatia, Mladen Lorkovic,
sent instructions to his diplomats and to the world: "... the Croatian
people annihilate all foreign elements, which weaken its powers; those
foreign elements are the Serbs and the Jews."(33) 

How committed was the Catholic Church in Croatia to this ideology and
its racial laws?

[Part II will be published in the next issue, with the above four
paragraphs included as a transition.  --  tallpaul]

- - - - -


1.   Charles R. Allen, Jr., "The Vatican and the Nazis, Part II,"
Reform Judaism, Fall 1983, p. 33.

2.   "We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah," Commission for Religious
Relations with the Jews, the Vatican, March 1998.

3.   This has been a long term public relations effort. See "The Pope's
In A Confessional and Jews Are Listening," New York Times, 30 November

4.   "Vatican Expresses Sorrow over Holocaust, defends wartime Pope,"
CNN, 16 March 1998.

5.   "The Vatican Releases Document on Church's Role During the
Holocaust,"  CNN Transcript of Program aired 16 March 1998.

6.    "The Pope's In a Confessional and Jews Are Listening," New York
Times, 30 November 1997.

7.    The story of the "ratlines" and the employment of Croatian
fascists and war criminals during the Cold War by the U.S. and British 
governments is told in Christopher Simpson's Blowback (New York:
Colliers, 1988) and in Mark Aarons and John Loftus,  The Unholy 
Trinity, (New York: St.. Martin's, 1991). The singularly shameless  and
criminal refusal of the U.S. and Britain to cooperate with 
Yugoslavia in the return of war criminals in total disregard of 
international treaties and laws is discussed in detail in Christopher
Simpson's The Splendid Blond Beast, (New York: Grove Press, 1993). 

8.   See L.S. Stavrianos, The Balkans Since 1453, (New York: Holt
Rinehart, 1961), or Mihailo Crnobrnja, The Yugoslav Drama, (Montreal:
McGill, 1994).

9.   Cited in Milan Bulajic, The Role of the Vatican in the Break-Up of
the Yugoslav State, (Beograd: Struchna kniga, 1994), pp. 41-42.

10.  Ibid., p.38.

11.  "All Serbs Must Die!"  In his autobiography, Leon Trotsky (then
living in Vienna) recalled the popularity of that song in the Austrian
empire in 1914 and how his own son had been beaten up in the street for
answering back "Hail Serbia!" Leon Trotsky, My Life, (New York:
Pathfinder, 1970), p. 233.

12.  Cited in Avro Manhattan, The Vatican's Holocaust, (Springfield,
Mo., Ozark Books, 1988), pp. 9-17.

13.   Bulajic, pp. 48-49.

14.   Ibid., pp. 49-50.

15.   Ibid., p. 59.

16.   Ibid., pp. 51-59.

17.  Mark Aarons and John Loftus, The Unholy Trinity, (New York: St.
Martins, 1991), pp. 3-17, 48-54, 125-127.

18.   Frank Littlefield, Germany and Yugoslavia, 1933-1941. The German
Conquest of Yugoslavia. (New York: Columbia U. Press, 1988).

19. One of the most widely respected scholarly studies of Vatican
complicity in the Holocaust in Croatia is Carlo Falconi's The Silence
of Pius XII, (Boston:Little, Brown and Co., 1970).  Falconi believed
that the Pope gave his blessings to the Ustasha in 1939.  See p. 266.

20.   Falconi, p. 409, footnote 13.

21.   Bulajic, pp. 72-73.

22.   Manhattan, pp. 20-22.

23.   Ibid. Also Falconi, p. 271.

24.   Falconi, pp. 272-273.

25.   Bulajic, p. 74.

26.   Ibid., p.59.

27.   Ibid.,p.47.

28.   Falconi, pp.294-296.

29.   Ibid., pp. 266-272.

30.   Vladimir Dedijer, Jasenovac - The Yugoslav Auschwitz and the
Vatican, (New York: Prometheus, 1992), pp. 136-137.

31.  Recalled in an article by Josef Matel, a Professor at Graz who
served in the Wehrmacht in Yugoslavia, quoted in Lazo M. Kostic,
Holocaust in the Independent State of Croatia, (Chicago: Liberty,
1981), p.12.

32.   Kostic, p. 272.

33.   Ibid., p. 80.


The Internet Anti-Fascist: Tuesday, 19 May 98
FTP Supplement #33 (#114): The Vatican and International War Crimes

1) Roger Cohen (NY Times), "French Catholic Church Apologizes for
   Silence on Holocaust," 1 Oct 97
2) Celestine Bohlen (NY Times), "The Pope's in a Confessional, and Jews
   Are Listening," 30 Nov 97
3) Gayle Young (CNN), "Vatican expresses sorrow over Holocaust, defends
   wartime pope," 16 Mar 98
4) CNN Transcript, "The Vatican Releases Document on Church's Role
   During the Holocaust," Aired March 16, 1998 - 6:13 p.m. ET
5) Edward Idris Cardinal Cassidy, Pierre Bishop Duprey, Fr. Remi
   Hoeckman (Vatican Information Service), "We Remember:  A Reflection
   on the Shoah," selections from the report of the Vatican's
   Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, 17 Mar 98
6) CNN Transcript, [Vatican Report], Aired March 17, 1998 - 4:30 a.m.
7) NY Times (Editorial), "The Vatican's Holocaust Report," 18 Mar 98

   We have no ethical right to forgive, no historical right to forget. 
       (No permission required for noncommercial reproduction)

                               - - - - -

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