“CHRIST AND THE USTASHI MARCH TOGETHER”
If the first ingredient of Ustashi super-nationalism was race, the second was religion. The two could hardly exist independently, having been so closely intertwined as to have become almost synonymous. The word Croat, in fact, signified Catholic, as much as, in Croatia, Catholic came to signify Croat. If this was useful to Ustashi racialism, it was no less beneficial to Catholicism, in so far as, once the theory had been established that Catholic meant Croat, the idea that Croatia had to be totally Catholic not only became firmly rooted: it was turned into one of the basic tenets of the new State.
The results of such an identification were portentous. For, while nationalism had embarked upon a policy of 100 per cent racialism, the Catholic Church had embarked upon an inevitable parallel policy of 100 per cent Catholicism. The two policies were in effect one single policy, the political authorities automatically furthering the religious interests of Catholicism, while the religious authorities furthered the political interests of Ustashi racialism.
The actual process of integrating the two into an inseparable organic, religio-political unit, not only was conducted by individual Catholics or Catholic organizations, like the Crusaders, or Catholic political leaders like Macek: it was promoted by the Catholic clergy prior to the birth of the Ustashi State. Catholic priests, in fact, vigorously preached Fascism before the Second World War. The Catholic Press, controlled by them, became Fascism’s mightiest propaganda organ. In it they advocated the Fascist Corporate State, praised the Fascist Catholic dictators, and preached racial theories—e.g. the theory that the Croats were not of Slav descent, but were Gothic German. One of the founders of this race theory was a well-known Catholic priest, Kerubin Segvic, who as far back as 1931 wrote a book entitled,The Gothic Descendance of the Croats, with a view to creating racial odium against the Slavs, which was synonymous with “Orthodox.” Fascist nations were hailed as glorious examples for the future Croatia. In its issue of April 3, 1938, for instance the Catholic daily, Hrvatska Straza, praised Fascist Hungary for “solving the social problem by accepting the main principle of the Christian Corporate State.” The same paper, on March 2, 1938, greeted the Anschluss with: “Young Croatia for Anschluss.”
The Catholic Press preached Catholic Nazism on the model of that planted in Slovakia by the Catholic Nazi dictator priest, Mgr. Tiso. The Zagreb Katolicki List, the organ of Archbishop Stepinac, in January, 1940, carried an article entitled “Catholicism and Slovakian National Socialism,” which read in part:
In a modern state, which placed the interests of the people above all other considerations, the Church and the State must cooperate in order to avoid all conflicts and misunderstandings. Thus, in accordance with the teachings of Christ, the Church in Slovakia had already exerted itself to arrange a new life for the Slovakian people. The views of Dr. Tuka are fulfilled by the formation of a ‘people’s Slovakia, which has the approval of the President of the Republic, Mgr. Dr. Josip Tiso. In the National-Socialist system in Slovakia, the Church will not be persecuted. Persecutions will be used against the opponents of National-Socialism.
The achievements of Catholic Fascism were continually glorified in Hungary, in France under Catholic Petain, in Spain under Catholic Franco. The chief Catholic daily, Hrvatska Straza, the editor of which, Dr. Janko Shimrak, became a bishop under Pavelic, openly and consistently praised Hitler’s successes in domestic and foreign policy. In the issue of March 12, 1938, Hitler’s occupation of Austria was defended and praised. Later this paper hailed Hitler’s successes in Czechoslovakia, Poland, and France. The Katolicki Tjednik, organ of Catholic Action, published under the direction of the Archbishop of Sarajevo, Dr. Ivan Saric, printed articles entitled “A New Order Must Come” (e.g. in issue No. 4, 1941), before Hitler attacked Yugoslavia.
The Catholic Press, by propagating Nazi-Ustashi ideas, played a tremendous role in conditioning the people to what eventually happened, reaching as it did people in all walks of life. Its influence was great, and helped to an enormous extent to represent Pavelic and the Ustashi as having been sent by God to the Croatian people. It became especially skillful in sowing the seeds of religious hatred towards the Serbs, racial hatred towards the Jews, and hatred for Yugoslavia. Immediately after the proclamation of the Independent State of Croatia it placed itself unreservedly at the disposal of the Ustashi, thus following the example of the Catholic clergy, who took an active part in helping the Ustashi, with weapons in their hands, in the disruption of the Yugoslav Kingdom.
At many points Catholic priests, and even Catholic friars, helped to form treacherous Ustashi armed bands with the precise objective of attacking the Yugoslav Army from the rear. Many of these clerics boasted openly of their military activities. The exploits of others who fell in battle were recalled in their obituaries.
The Catholic weekly, Nedelja, in its issue of June 22, 1941, describes in an article entitled, “The Last Convulsion of Yugoslavia on the Island of Pag,” the manner in which the priest on that island took part in disarming the Yugoslav Army:
Late at night younger Croatians would follow the development of events. The Reverend Stipanov in Vlasici on Pag would also listen to the news and ride to inform the officers and soldiers. Thus the news events found us prepared and enthusiastic. It was decided to disarm the officers from Serbia
The Ustashi paper, Hrvatski Narod, on July 4, 1941, hailed the Franciscan priest Dr. Radoslav Glavas as a great organizer of the Ustashi. The article said in part:
A young and energetic Franciscan, Dr. Radoslav Glavas, came to Siroki Greg and placed himself al the head of the struggle. A plan was even drawn to prevent the mobilization of the Yugoslav Army. Thus the historic day of April 10 was welcomed, and in the night between April 10 and 11 the Ustashi disarmed the local gendarmerie and captured the post office.
The Ustashi periodical, Za Dom, No. 1, of April, 1941, adds:
Another priest, joining forces with two customs guards, captured two generals and 40 officers, while a Franciscan brother, with the help of a number of youths, disarmed an entire Serbian company.
Hrvatski Narod, No. 251, of June 4, 1944, page 3, carried a death notice, written by priest Eugen Beluhan, of Chaplain Ivan Miletic, which in describing his Ustashi activities asserted: “As a priest he assisted in the disruption of the Yugoslav Army during the revolution.” There is an endless list of such reports in the files of the War Crimes Commission.
Following the fall of Yugoslavia and the rise of the independent State of Croatia, the Catholic Press came all out for Pavelic and his Ustashi. Vjesnik Pocasne Straze Srca Isusova (The Courier of the Honourable Guards of Christ’s Heart) contained, in issues Nos. 5 and 6, 1941, an article entitled, “The Banner of Croatia—the Heart of Christ,” in which the “resurrection” of Croatia was compared to that of Christ:
In the early spring the Croatian people experienced their resurrection at the time of Christ’s resurrection. The great son of the Croatian people returned and gave them their liberty and ancient rights. And this is also the work of God; the Lord did it all and that is why it is strange to our eyes.
Glasnik Biskupije Bosanske i Sremske (The Voice of the Bosnian and Srem Bishoprics), No. 13, of July 15, 1941, imitating Pope Pius XI, who had called Mussolini the man sent by Divine Providence, called Pavelic a man of Providence:
Holy is this year of the resurrection of the Independent State of Croatia. The gallant image of our chieftain appeared in the rainbow. It can and it must be said of him that his is a man of Providence.
Glasnik Sv. Ante (The Voice of Saint Anthony), in its issue of December 12, 1941, went further, declaring that the birth of the Independent State of Croatia was God’s work:
The Croatians, who are mostly a Catholic people, consider such a great historical event as some fortunate accident, or as a stroke of luck. No, this is the work of God and Providence.
Even this was not enough. The Ustashi were compared to no one else but Christ. Witness the voice of the Crusader movement, Nedelja, which, in its issue of June 6, 1941, in an article entitled, “Christ and Croatia,” declared the following:
Christ and the Ustashi and Christ and the Croatians march together through history. From the first day of its existence the Ustashi movement has been fighting for the victory of Christ’s principles, for the victory of justice, freedom, and truth. Our Holy Saviour will help us in the future as he has done until now, that is why the new Ustashi Croatia will be Christ’s, ours and no one else’s.
Catholic leaders, priests, and indeed bishops were given positions in the Ustashi State. Immediately after Pavelic assumed power many priests were appointed to local and provincial administrative posts in the newly created Ustashi State. To mention only a few: the Catholic priest Ante Klaric Tepelun, from the village of Tramosnica, district of Gradacac, who in April, 1941, became an Ustashi tabornik, and took part in disarming the Yugoslav Army. Father Emanuel Rajich, priest in Gornji Vakuf, who participated in disarming the Yugoslav Army, organized Ustashi rule in Gornji Vakuf, and was appointed Ustashi tabornik, in which capacity he organized the first Ustashi army unit in Gornji Vakuf.
Novi List, No. 54, in 1941, reported the appointment of priest Stjepan Lukic to the post of logorni pobocnik (camp adjutant) of the Zepce camp. Cecelja Martin, priest in Recica, District of Karlovac, was appointed to the post of Ustashi tabornik for the county of Recica. Dr. Dragutin Kamber, priest in Doboj, was appointed in April, 1941, to the post of Ustashi commandant for the District of Doboj, with all political and civil powers thus concentrated in his hands.
No. 34 of the same paper, dated July I, 1941, carried an order of the Government appointing priest Didak Coric to the post of tabornik in Jaska; Ante Djuric, priest in the village of Divusa, to the post of tobornik for the district of Drvar; and priest Dragan Petranovic to the post of logornik in the camp of the district of Ogulin.
Catholic leaders directly under the orders of the Hierarchy were given the highest positions—e.g., the President of Crusaders, priest Dr. Felix Niedzielski, who was made Ustashi Vice-Governor of Bosnia during the first days of Pavelic regime. Another Catholic priest, Grga Peinovic, Director of the Crusaders, was made nothing less than President of the Ustashi Central Propaganda Office, as reported in Fledelja on August 10, 1941. In an article entitled, “Crusaders in the Independent State of Croatia,” the same paper pointed to the fact that many persons trained in the Crusader organization were now occupying high offices, which was indeed true.
|A collection of Catholic newspapers issued in Ustashi Croatia, all showing Pavelic’s portrait.
The press, including the Diocesan and Episcopal papers, all supported and praised the Ustashi, from the first to the last.
Besides the propagation of Nazi-Ustashi ideas, the Catholic press played a tremendous role in conditioning the Croatian people to the horrors that were eventually to occur once Croatia came into being. It represented the Pavelic Regime as the instrument of justice and the vengeance of God. It became especially skillful in sowing religious hatred against the Orthodox Serbs.
The official organ of the Archbishopric of Zagreb, Katolicki List, No. 16, 1941, declared that Ustashi Croatia had been created by an all powerful Providence. So did Glasnik St. Ante (The Voice of St. Anthony), December 12, 1941: “This is the work of Cod.” The paper Nedelja, June 6, 1941, the organ of the Catholic Crusader movement, declared “Christ and the Ustashi march together.”
The active participation of so many Catholic leaders and Catholic clergy in the formation of the Ustashi State of Croatia had been possible only thanks to one thing: the consent of, and indeed instructions from, the leaders of the Catholic Hierarchy. This was proved from the very first by the incontrovertible fact that high and low clergy cooperated whole-heartedly with Pavelic. Catholic parishes, as well as Catholic Cathedrals, and, indeed, the very radio, were used as a political platform for Pavelic and the Ustashi. Witness Radio Zagreb, which on April l l, 1941, the day after Kvaternik and the German Army had entered the Croatian capital, instructed the people to welcome the German Army and “to seek answers to all questions from the Catholic parish offices, where instructions will be given about the future work.”
The official organ of the Archbishopric of Zagreb, Kato-licki List, No. 16, 1941, declared that the independent State of Croatia had been created by an all-powerful Providence. The Catholic Church, it concluded, prayed God that the New Croatia should find its fulfillment. The same paper went farther, and soon afterwards published “The Principles of the Government of the Independent State of Croatia and of the Ustashi Movement,” to acquaint its readers with the basic directives regulating the life of every individual in the new puppet State. These directives soon helped Pavelic to convert Croatia into a virtual concentration camp. Archbishop Stepinac, on April 28, 1941, issued a pastoral letter, in which he asked the clergy to respond without hesitation to his call that they take part in the exalted work of defending and improving the Independent State of Croatia, declaring that from then onwards in the “resurrected” Croatian State the Church would be able in complete freedom to preach “the invincible principles of eternal truth and justice.” The pastoral letter, which was also published in Nedelja and Katolicki List on April 28, 1941, said the following:
Honourable brethren, there is not one among you who did not recently witness the most significant event in the life of the Croatian people among whom we act as herald of Christ’s word. These are events that fulfilled the long-dreamed-of and desired ideal of our people…. You should, therefore, readily answer my call to do elevated work for the safeguarding and the progress of the Independent State of Croatia…. Prove yourselves, honourable brethren, and fulfill now your duty toward the young Independent State of Croatia.
The pastoral letter was read in every Croatian parish. It was also read over the radio. The impression it had on the people, and especially on the clergy, was indicated by Father Peter Glavas, who, during his trial after liberation, said in his own defense: “The order given by Archbishop Stepinac to the people over the radio to fight for the Independent State of Croatia constituted a political directive to the clergy.” Like any other priest, he had to obey.
The Ustashi section of the clergy, which had been active in terrorism even before the war, did not need this circular to tell them how to act. Yet many who until then had hesitated, after Stepinac’s instructions accepted his directives and actively engaged in supporting the Ustashi. The Catholic clergy did not join the Ustashi merely to chant Latin hymns. They joined in order to carry out the Ustashi racial and religious terror programs.
When Pavelic returned from Italy to Zagreb, to assume leadership of the New Croatia, he stopped in the town of Ogulin, on April 13, 1941, where he conferred with one of his most fanatical lieutenants, the Ustashi Catholic priest Canon Ivan Mikan. On that same day, in a public speech, Canon Mikan foretold the shape of things to come: “There will be purges,” shouted priest Mikan. “Yes, there will be purges.” On the same evening, not far from that region, the first Ustashi punitive expedition attacked individual Serbs in several villages.
Were these massacres committed only by the followers of Pavelic? They were often promoted and carried out by Catholic priests claiming to be the followers of Christ and the representatives of a Church trumpeting to the four winds that she preached universal love. It will suffice for us to mention only a few. The first Ustashi commandant in the District of Udbina was the Franciscan priest, Mate Mogus, who had organized the Ustashi militia and disarmed Yugoslav troops. At a meeting in Udbina on June 13, 1941, he gave the following homily: “Look, people, at these 16 brave Ustashi, who have 16,000 bullets and who will kill 16,000 Serbs, after which we will divide among us in a brotherly manner the Mutilic and Krbava fields”—a speech which was the signal for the beginning of the slaughter of Serbs in the district of Udbina.
In Dvor na Uni, priest Anton Djuric kept a dairy of his activities as an Ustashi functionary. The diary shows that on his orders the Ustashi plundered and burned the village of Segestin, where 150 Serbs were murdered, and that in the village of Goricka he arrested 117 people, who were sent to a concentration camp, where most of them were killed.
A group of Franciscan priests, who tortured and finally killed twenty-five Serbs in the village of Kasle, took photographs of their victims. In the village of Tramosnica, priest Ante Klaric became the first Ustashi commissar, the personally led Ustashi units in attacks on Serbian villages. He organized the Ustashi militia and, according to witnesses, spoke from the pulpit as follows:”
You are old women and you should put on skirts, for you have not yet killed a single Serb. We have no weapons and no knives and we should forge them out of old scythes and sickles, so that you can cut the throats of Serbs whenever you see them.
Priest Bozo Simlesa, in the village of Listani, was one of the most active members of the Ustashi. He held the post of chief of the district of Livno. During the slaughter of the Serbs in the county of Listani he told the people from the pulpit that the time had arrived to exterminate all Serbs living in Croatia. He personally organized the Ustashi militia and obtained arms for them. On July 27, 1941, he held a meeting in the village, and when he was informed that all Serbian men had been murdered and that women and children were to be killed that night, he told them not to wait for the night, for twenty-four hours had already passed since the chief had issued his order that not a single Serb must be left alive in Croatia.
The Catholic Dean of Stolac, in Herzegovina, priest Marko Zovko, was responsible for the murder of 200 persons, whose bodies were thrown into a ditch in a field in Vidovo. Franciscan Mijo Cujic, of Duvno, personally gave instructions for the massacre of Serbs in the villages of Prisoje and Vrila, where not one person was allowed to remain alive.Were these the abominable deeds of some few individuals maddened by religious and racial fanaticism? Indeed they were not. They were an integral part of the official policy of the Catholic Church, which, screened behind the mantle of the Independent State, had inspired and promoted all the horrors which soaked the historical land of Croatia in a sea of blood.
CATHOLIC FRIARS, PRIESTS, EXECUTIONERS, BISHOPS AND MURDERERS
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.
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. Thus, while some, as we have already seen, took charge of concentration camps, others led the armed Ustashi in the closing of Orthodox churches, in the confiscation of Orthodox records, in the persecution, arrest, and, yes, even in the murder of Orthodox people, including Orthodox priests. At Banjaluka, for instance, an official order directed that all the Orthodox Church records of marriages, baptisms, and burials be delivered forthwith to Catholic parishes, while at Pakrac Catholic priests took possession of the Serbian Bishop’s residence, following the locking and sealing of the Orthodox cathedral (April 12, 1941).
Orthodox churches were converted into halls—e.g. that of Prnjavor, on July 10, 1941. Others were transformed into Catholic churches, when they were not pulled down altogether—e.g. in the provinces of Lika, Banija, and Kordun, where 172 churches were totally destroyed. Orthodox monasteries shared the same fate. At Fruska Gora fifteen Serbian Orthodox monasteries and churches were given to Catholic monks of the Franciscan order, as was also done with the Church properties at Orahovica, Pakrac, Lepavina, and other places. The monastery of Vrdnik-Ravanica, wherein were buried the remains of King Lazar, who led and died in the historical battle of Kosovo against the Turks in 1389 in defense of Christianity, was also taken over, as was Sremski Karlovci, the former seat of the Orthodox Patriarchate. There the great cathedral was first plundered of all valuables, then closed, after all its physical properties had been taken over by the Catholic Bishop. Within a short period 250 Orthodox churches were pillaged or destroyed. In the diocese of Diakovo, mentioned before, twenty-eight Orthodox churches became Catholic churches.
Together with the destruction of Orthodox churches, Catholic ferocity struck at the very backbone of the Orthodox Church: i.e. at the Orthodox clergy. Orthodox priests were imprisoned, sent to concentration camps, hunted down, or simply massacred. Hundreds of them, including Orthodox Bishops, perished, only because they were priests of the religion hostile to the “true Church.”
Orthodox priests, before being executed or hanged, were often horribly tortured—e.g. priest Branko Dobrosavljevich, from Veljun, who was compelled to read the obituary of his own son, whom the Ustashi first killed in his presence, this preceding his own torture and death, which became the signal for the mass execution of hundreds of Orthodox inside the Orthodox churches of Kladusa, Veljun, Slusnica, Primislje, and other places. On April 20, 1941, in the village of Svinjica, the Ustashi arrested the Orthodox priest, Babic, and after torturing him buried him in an upright position to his waist in the ground. Within a few weeks the Ustashi and Catholic priests murdered 135 Orthodox priests, of whom eighty-five came from one diocese.
The higher clergy were not spared. On the night of June 5, 1941, on orders from the Ustashi chief, Gutic, the Orthodox Bishop Platon, of Banjaluka in Western Bosnia, together with several Orthodox priests, some of whom were former members of the House of Representatives, was taken to the outskirts of the town by the Ustashi. There the old Bishop’s beard was torn out, a fire lit on his naked chest, then, after prolonged torture, he and all his companions were killed with hatchets, and their bodies thrown into the Vrbanja River.
Dositej, Orthodox Bishop of Zagreb, capital of the Independent State of Croatia, where Archbishop Stepinac had his residence, lost his reason as a result of the tortures inflicted upon him before his expulsion to Belgrade. Three Orthodox Bishops, Peter Zimonjic of Sarajevo, Sava Trlajic of Plaski, and Platon of Banjaluka, were murdered. 
Numerous Catholic priests and monks, some of whom were not even attached to the Ustashi formations, carried out indiscriminate executions with their own hands. Many of them methodically and with precision took part in the most incredible orgies of blood. Canon Ivan Mikan, already mentioned, made daily rounds of the prison and mercilessly beat Orthodox Serbs with a bull-whip, scolding the Ustashi for being lax in their work, personally ordering that the Orthodox monastery of Gomirje be looted and its inmates sent to a concentration camp, where they were all executed. Fra Anto, a Catholic priest of Tramosnjica, organized Ustashi bands with the object of capturing as many Orthodox Serbs as he could, whom very often he tortured personally, as he did at Brcko. Simic Vjekoslav, a monk of the monastery at Knin, personally killed numerous Orthodox. Sidonije Sole, a monk of the Franciscan monastery in Nasice, deported the Orthodox population of whole villages, while the Catholic priests Guncevic and Marjanovich Dragutin, in addition to acting as police officials, ordered the arrest of hundreds of Orthodox, whom they tortured and then killed, taking an active personal part in their execution. German Castimir, abbot of the monastery in Guntic personally directed the mass murder of the Orthodox Serbs of Glina, a hundred of whom were murdered inside the Orthodox church there. The names of many others have been put on record by the Serbian Eastern Orthodox diocese of the USA and Canada, by the Orthodox Church of Yugoslavia, by the Yugoslav Government, and by other official agencies.
The purpose of all this terror was to destroy the enemies of Catholicism. Yet, while the Catholic Church, whenever given total power, can become a ruthless destroyer of her enemies, bursting with dreams of expansion, she can simultaneously follow a no less ruthless campaign of absorption. Absorption can be accomplished by only one means: by conversion.
|In the village of Mikleus, 1942, a Catholic parish priest “converting” in bulk hundreds of peasants.Many Catholic priests were at the head of the Ustashi. Witness priest Mate Mogus, of the parish of Udbina, in the province of Like. “We Catholics,” he told the to be forcibly converted Serbs, “until now have worked for Catholicism with the cross and with the book of the Mass. The day has come, however, to work with the revolver and with the gun.”
Father D. Juric, a Franciscan, was appointed head of a Ministry charged with plans for the systematic conversion of all those Orthodox who bad been spared from Concentration Camps or massacre.
Most of the forcible conversions were duly announced by diocesan bulletins. Witness, Katolicki List, organ of the Bishopric of Zagreb, controlled by Archbisbop Stepinac. In its issue No. 31, 1941, it reported that “a new parish of over 2,300 souls” bad been created in the village of Budinci, as a result of the entire village having been re-christened to the Catholic Faith. Collective resistance was met by ruthless collective punishment.
“Converting” the Orthodox Serbs, December 21st, 1941, Friars, besides Priests, participated in forcible conversions. They were no less ruthless than the parish clergy, e.g. Monk Ambrozjie Novak, Guardian of the Capucine Monastery in Varazdin, who, utter surrounding the village of Mostanica with Ustashi contingents, told the people: “You Serbs are condemned to death, and you can only escape that sentence by accepting Catholicism.”
Catholic Padres did not hesitate to liquidate those who resisted. Witness Father Dr. Dragutin Kamber, a Jesuit priest and a sworn Ustashi, who ordered the killing of 300 Orthodox Serbs in Doboj and the court martial of 250 more, most of whom were shot. Or Father Dr. Branimir Zupanic, who had more than 400 people killed in one village alone: Ragoije. Father Srecko Peric, of the Gorica Monastery, near Livno, advocated mass murders with the following words: “Kill all Serbs. And when you finish come here, to the Church, and I will confess you and free you from sin.” This resulted in a massacre, on August 10th, 1941, during which over 5,600 Orthodox Serbs in the district of Livno alone lost their lives.
A Franciscan monk converting Orthodox villagers in Mikleus, near Kutina.
On their murderous expeditions, the Ustashi were always accompanied by Catholic Padres—most of these themselves Ustashi officers—whose task was to supervise the operations and, above all, to ensure that the Orthodox Serbs were converted to the Catholic Church. Conversion meant the avoidance of arrest, loss of property and even of life.
Father Dionizio Juric, Ante Pavelic’s confessor, was quite blunt about it. “Any Serb who refuses to become a Catholic should be condemned to death,” he declared at Staza, in the district of Banjia.
With Catholic storm troopers nearby the threat was a reality. There were instances where those who refused conversion were executed on the spot. Witness the case of Father Ilja Tomas, of the village of Klepac, who promised safety to the fleeing Orthodox if they became Catholics. Because they changed their minds, however, the Ustashi murdered the lot.
The Orthodox churches became the main targets of the Catholic storm troopers, the Ustashi, and even of the Catholic clergy. These churches were seized, evacuated, closed, transformed into Catholic churches, or burned down altogether.
In the province of Lika, Banija and Kordum, in 1941, 172 Orthodox churches were totally destroyed.. At Fruska Gora, 15 Orthodox monasteries and churches were given to Franciscans. Out of 189 churches in the diocese of Gornjo Karlovachka, 175 were destroyed or burned down.
There were cases when the Ustashi, after having shut the Orthodox worshippers inside their church, set fire to the building. The worshippers were machine gunned when attempting to escape. Thousands perished in this way, killed by bullets, falling masonry, or burned alive.
In 1941 Glina witnessed such a spectacle. The photograph shows the remains of an Orthodox church burned there by the Ustashi with about 2,000 men, women and children who had gone to pray in it.
Catholic Brothers, and Monks, when visiting villages to “convert” the Orthodox population, were always escorted by the heavily armed Catholic storm troopers, the Ustashi.
The terrible reputation of the Ustashi for ruthlessness was often sufficient to “persuade” people to embrace the Catholic Church and their bayonets helped the Catholic Padres to baptize those who hesitated. The alternative, the preachers warned, was seizure of their property, arrest, concentration camps, or even execution.
Father Franjo Pipinic, the parish priest of Pozega, for instance, towards the end of 1941 converted thousands, “assisted” by the Ustashi Captain Peranovic. He always began and ended his sermons by explaining that “conversion” was the only way to stay alive. The sight of the grim, armed Ustashi nearby induced whole communities of Orthodox to embrace the “true” Church.
The Commission for Investigating War Crimes reported how hundreds of cases of such Catholic “persuasion” had occurred throughout Croatia. Above, Franciscan Padre, Bozidar Braie, is seen while delivering a sermon to the soon to be converted Orthodox congregation at Zemun, July 12, 1942, escorted by Ustashi. The large letter “U” on the open air pulpit stands for “Ustashi.”
The Franciscan Monk, Father Miroslav Filipovic. Left as a priest, wearing his cassock. Right, in Ustashi uniform. Father Filipovic was the Commandant of the terrible concentration camp at Jasenovac.
Father Filipovic, chief ecclesiastical murderer of Croatia, although a Monk of the Order of St. Francis, was a fanatical Ustashi long before the Second World War. His political and religious ruthlessness can be judged by the fact that, while addressing a battalion of the armed Ustashi in the village of Drakulic, he killed an Orthodox child with his own hands.
Resenting the Orthodox reluctance to be “re-baptized,” he told the armed Ustashi to “re-Christen these degenerates in the name of God. You follow my example.” One thousand five hundred Orthodox Serbs were executed in one single day.
As Commandant of the Jasenovac Concentration Camp, Father Filipovic, aided by Father Zvonko Brekalo, Father Z. Lipovac, and Father Culina, caused the death of 40,000 men, women and children during the period of his administration.
The non-Catholic population in Catholic Croatia were given two basic alternatives: conversion or death. Their churches were closed, parish documents destroyed, ecclesiastical buildings burned down. Orthodox worshippers very often were arrested inside their own churches, and kept there or in local halls while awaiting their fate: i.e. forcible conversion, concentration camps or execution. Their survival, more often than not, depended upon the whim of the Ustashi Commandants of the Catholic Padres accompanying them.
There were occasions, however, when the Orthodox Serbs were given no chance at all to escape with their lives. Some Catholic Priests being implacable. Witness the Abbot of the Monastery in Guntic, Father German Castimir, who personally directed the mass murder of the Orthodox Serbs of Glina, a hundred of whom were massacred inside their Orthodox Church there.
In this photograph, Orthodox worshippers inside their church at Hrvatska Dubica, prior to their all being murdered, August 21, 1941.
Once inside the sundry concentration camps, the inmates were still liable, not only to be tortured, but to be executed as well. The camp Commandants had unwritten authorization to kill anyone taken there. Indeed, to quote Ljubo Milos, Commandant of the Jasenovac Concentration Camp, there was “an agreement” that all prisoners sentenced to three years were to be “liquidated” at once.
By virtue of this, inmates at times were murdered indiscriminately without even the slightest legal excuse. Justification for mass killings was sometimes of the flimsiest nature.
For example, on September 15, 1941, all those inmates of the Jasenovac Camp unable to work, numbering between 600 and 700, were executed. In the Camp of Stara Gradiska, 1000 women were killed. In the Krapje Camp in October 1941, 4000 prisoners were murdered. To save themselves physical trouble, at times the Ustashi used typhus, e.g. in March 1943 the inmates of the Djakovo Camp were purposely infected with typhus, causing the death of 567 persons.
In the photograph, corpses of victims taken out of water wells at the Lepoglava Camp.
Bodies of Orthodox Serbs executed by the Ustashi contingents at Sinj on August 26,1941.
The Ustashi perpetrated countless mass murders on the slightest pretext, it being the official policy of their Government to get rid of the Orthodox Serbian population in their midst, since Catholic Croatia must be inhabited ONLY by Catholics.
By virtue of such a principle, the Ustashi arrested, tortured and slaughtered their Orthodox prisoners without pity. This even when the prisoners had been designated to Concentration Camps. Witness the case of the 5,000 Orthodox prisoners who, in August 1942, having been assigned to the notorious Concentration Camp of Jasenovac, were decimated by the Ustashi en route. Two thousand of them were murdered in cold blood. Those who survived were transferred to Gradina, where on August 28,1942 they were all put to death by the Ustashi with the butts of their rifles and with hammers. The corpses were then buried in common graves or cremated in rudimentary ovens.
The Ustashi not only detained, arrested and “punished” people whom they considered hostile, they tortured and even executed them, regardless of any legal justification.
During their first years of indiscriminate power they carried out numberless executions. Single individuals or small groups were punished or massacred on the spot. Whole Orthodox families were wiped out. More often than not, the pleading victims were not spared, even when some of them, to save their lives, made ready to be “re-baptized” into the Catholic Church. Later on such willingness saved thousands on the advice of the Catholic padres, who accompanied the Ustashi contingents.
In 1945, however, when the fall of Independent Catholic Croatia loomed inevitable, the fleeing Ustashi resumed their ancient ruthlessness and massacred without any discrimination. When retreating from Sisak, for instance, they massacred the 380 prisoners of that camp in cold blood. The victims were then hurled into the river. This photo shows some of the corpses of those thus murdered on the banks of the Sava.
Another case of throat cutting, which took place in Croatia in 1943. The photograph was found in the pocket of a dead Ustashi. One of his companions is holding up the already severed head of a victim, for his friend to take a photo.
The Ustashi committed the most execrable crimes with the utmost indifference. Frequently they amused themselves with prolonging the tortures of their prisoners, to pass the time.
They did not spare women or children. To quote only one instance: In the villages between Vlasenica and Kladanj the Nazi occupational troops discovered children who had been impaled upon stakes by the Ustashi, their members still distorted with pain. Catholic priests, too, advocated the killing of children. Witness Father D. Juric. “Today it is no longer a sin to kill a child of seven,” he said, “should such a child be opposed to our movement of the Ustashi.”
Mass murders were supplemented by the massacre of individuals, mostly in rural districts. Instances of the utmost ferocity occurred. The Ustashi very often used the most primitive weapons, such as forks, spades, hammers and saws, to torture their victims prior to their execution. They broke their legs, pulled off their skin and beards, blinded them by cutting their eyes with knives and even tearing them from their sockets, as a survivor, Marija Bogunovitch, testified.
Sometimes executions were committed on the home ground of victims, carried out with conventional guns and revolvers. Some Ustashi specialized in disposing of their “charges” by crushing their skulls with hatchets or even hammers.
At Dubrovnick, Dalmatia, Fascist soldiers had photographs of an Ustashi wearing two necklaces. One was a string of cut-out eyes, the other of torn out tongues of murdered Orthodox Serbs.
In this photograph Ustashi are torturing an Orthodox Serb with a saw prior to executing him. Somewhere in Bosnia, in 1943. The photograph was found in the pocket of a dead Ustashi in 1945.
Indiscriminate mass deportations and muss executions became one of the most characteristic features of the Ustashi. Very often the life or death of the prisoners depended upon the whims of the local Commander or even the local Catholic priest.
Ustashi authorities would summon the Orthodox Serbs to perform public works or to listen to some new law. Once they were gathered in a given place, they would be surrounded, marched outside the village or town, and executed without further ado.
In the most remote regions of Upper Dalmatia, like Bosnia Herzegovina, there took place such veritable extermination. Women and children were not spared.
Some detachments of Ustashi, with the idea of saving themselves the trouble of burying the bodies, shot their victims on bridges. In Brcko, for instance, the home town of Deafer Kulenovic, the Ustashi Prime Minister, the Orthodox prisoners were all executed on the local bridge and then immediately hurled into the river.
This photograph shows the bodies of people executed by the Ustashi and flung into the river Kupa, in May 1945.
The Archbishop of Sarajevo, Dr. 1. Saric, giving the “Heil Hitler” with a group of Ustashi civilians and Nazi officers at the airport of Butmir, in 1943.
Archbishop Saric had been an Ustashi as early as 1934. He spoke, plotted and acted as the veritable Ustashi leader that he was. He exhorted his clergy to act as Ustashi and to “employ revolutionary methods to the service of truth (i.e. the Catholic Church), declaring that it was “unworthy of the disciples of Christ to think that the struggle…should be conducted…with gloves on.”
Many Catholic priests, bishops and monks were sworn officers of the Ustashi, e.g. Father Ivan Miletic, who led guerrillas against the Central Government of Belgrade. Or Father Kadoslav Glavas, a Franciscan Monk, who on April 10 and 11, 1941, disarmed the local police and captured the Post Office. In Herzegovina, the centre of the Ustashi movement was a Franciscan monastery.
The Orthodox Church became one of the prime targets of Catholic Croatia, which, very often, used the German armies of occupation, outside Croatia, to round up obstinate Orthodox Serbs.
One of the most effective means of paralyzing any resistance of the Serbian Orthodox Church was that of asking the Nazi authorities to arrest the Orthodox clergy. The policy was carried out throughout Yugoslavia. The result was that soon Orthodox resistance became very weak and, in fact, in certain parts of occupied Yugoslavia, even tacitly cooperated to avoid deportation and even execution. The policy was carried out everywhere. In this picture Dr. Gavrilo Dozitch, the Orthodox Patriarch is arrested by the (Gestapo, in the convent of Ostrog, in Montenegro. The Ustashi cooperated with the Nazis wherever they could harass, embarrass and destroy the Orthodox Church, which they considered the mortal enemy of the Catholic Church.
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.
This was not a unique example of Catholic “persuasion” backed by the bayonet. Priests openly told Orthodox to become Catholics if they wished to avoid persecution, concentration camps, and extermination. Franjo Pipinic, priest of Pozega, for instance, carried out mass conversions of Serbs towards the end of 1941, with the assistance of the Ustashi Captain Peranovic, telling the Serbian people that acceptance of Catholicism was the only way in which they could save themselves from death in concentration camps. In the files of the Commission for Investigating War Crimes there are hundreds of cases of this “persuasion,” of which we quote only a few.
One of the most fanatical missionaries for conversion was priest Ante Djuric, in the district of Dvor. He ordered the slaughter, plunder, and burning of many villages, and sent hundreds of Serbs to the concentration camp in Kostajnica. He personally mutilated and killed Serbs from Bosanska Kostajnica. In his speeches he always emphasized that the Serbs in his district “have only three ways out: to accept the Catholic faith, to move out, or to be cleansed with the metal broom.”
Priest Ambrozije Novak, Guardian of the Capucine monastery in Varazdin, in 1941 went to the village of Mostanica, accompanied by Ustashi, and ordered the Serbian people to assemble, telling them: “You Serbs are condemned to death, and you can only escape that sentence by accepting Catholicism.”
Priest Mate Mogus, of the parish of Udbina, in the province of Lika, was even more explicit: Until now, my brothers,” he preached in his church, “we (the Catholics) have worked for our Catholic religion with the cross and the book of Mass; the day, however, has now come to work with the revolver and the gun.” Some, however, wanted 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.
Such sentiments were shared by priests holding the most influential positions—e.g. Mgr. Dionizije Juric, one of the heads of the Ministry of Cults, and, more important still, the confessor of none other than Ante Pavelic himself. When in Staza, in the district of Banija, Father Juric put the matter of forcible conversions in a nutshell: Any Serb who refused to become Catholic should be condemned to death, he said, because “today it is no longer a sin to kill a child of seven, should such a child be opposed to our movement of the Ustashi.”
The Ustashi had committed and were committing massacres beyond counting. Yet the devout Catholic Mile Budak, in an address at Karlovac on July 13, 1941, did not hesitate to declare that “the movement of the Ustashi is based upon religion.” Catholics who had any qualms about it could reassure themselves simply by examining the professions of many of the leaders of the Ustashi, a great proportion of whom were monks, priests, and even bishops—e.g. Dr. Ivan Saric, the Archbishop of Sarajevo, an Ustashi since 1934. This pillar of the Holy Catholic Church, as soon as Catholic terror descended upon Croatia, spoke and acted as the veritable Ustashi that he was, inciting his subordinate clergy to act as Ustashi, and indeed, “to employ revolutionary methods to the service of the truth, of justice and of honour”; words which he repeatedly printed in his Katolicki Tjednik, where he never tired of declaring that “it is unworthy of the disciples of Christ to think that the struggle against evil (sic) could be conducted in a noble manner and with gloves on.” This in addition to writing poems to Pavelic, and inciting all Catholics to follow Pavelic’s example and the example of the Ustashi.
But if open refusal of conversion spelt death, acceptance of “the true faith,” although very often an insurance of terrestrial life, was not always a guarantee of safety. The slightest reluctance on the part of the Orthodox individuals, any obvious indication that they were becoming Catholic as a means of saving themselves, very often aroused Catholic vengeance. Apart from that, there were times when the call to conversion became only an excuse for wholesale massacre.
Curate Ilija Tomas, from the village of Klepac, for instance, was responsible for the death of hundreds of Serbs in that district. In order more easily to capture frightened victims who were fleeing to the mountains, he promised that no harm would befall them if they would embrace the Catholic religion. When many, believing this, called on him, he turned them over to the Ustashi, who murdered them all. In the village of Stikade, in Lika, Catholic priest Morber, leader of the Ustashi, invited the Serbs to be converted to the Catholic religion. Because those who accepted his proposal to be converted showed some reluctance, the Ustashi surrounded and massacred them with rifles and hammers and threw their bodies into a ditch. When the bodies were dug up later it was established that many had been alive when buried.
Josip Orlic, priest in Sunja, an old sworn Ustashi, compelled the Serbs in his district to accept Catholicism by threatening them with concentration camps. A great majority of the Serbs there changed to Catholicism, in fear for their lives. But as many of those re-christened made it clear that they did so to save their lives, they were carried away to the Jasenovac concentration camp in May, 1942, where practically all of them were killed. Some priests and monks specialized in forced mass conversions. The Ustashi priest Dionizije Juric, the Franciscan and close friend to Pavelic whom we have already mentioned, was appointed to head this division, which devised a plan for the systematic conversion of those Serbs who had been spared from persecution and massacre.
The daily mass murders taking place before them became the most powerful weapon of mass persuasion. Many followed the “friendly advice” and were “converted.” Conversions of individual and mass character became increasingly frequent. Most of these were duly announced in the Catholic Press. Katolicki List, organ of the Bishopric of Zagreb, controlled by Stepinac, in its issue No. 38 in 1941, for instance, reported that “a new parish of over 2,300 souls” had been created in the village of Budinci, as a result of the entire village having been re-christened to the Catholic Faith, and added that preparations for the re-christening had been made by a Franciscan from Nasice, Father Sidonije Solc. A similar mass conversion in the vicinity of Osijek, carried out by Father Peter Berkovic, was described in Ustaska Velika Zupa, No. 1372, of April 27, 1942:
His work covers the period from preparation of the members of the Eastern Orthodox Church for conversion to Catholicism until they were actually converted, and thus in the counties of Vocin, Cacinci, and Ceralije, he converted more than 6,000 persons.
An Ustashi administrator, Ante Djuric, priest of Divusa, forced all heads of families to assemble round their local teacher, bringing a 10 diners tax stamp, in order to write out petitions for conversion for themselves and their families. The alternative: forfeiture of their residences and posts. The curate of Ogulin, Canon Ivan Mikan, charged 180 diners for each forced conversion, so that in one Serb village along—Jasenak—he collected 80,000 diners.
A frank admission of how these mass conversions were made was given by Nova Hrvatska, an Ustashi paper, on February 25, 1942: “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.”
The re-christenings, as they were euphemistically labeled, were frequently celebrated with, in addition to water, blood. Priest Ivan Raguz had no inhibitions about it. He repeatedly urged the killing of all Serbs, including children, so that “even the seed of these beasts is not left.” His worthy colleague, the curate Bozidar Brale, from Sarajevo, took part in Serbian liquidation with gun in hand, loudly postulating the “liquidation of the Serbs without compromise.” The Spiritual Board of the Archbishop of Sarajevo was eventually to see Brale. As a culprit before an ecclesiastical tribunal? Far from it. As that Catholic body’s President.
With the Catholic Hierarchy as the brains of such a policy of terror, with the ruthless armed Catholic bands at their disposal, the expected occurred. Individuals, whole families, entire villages, and even small towns embraced Catholicism. Their official entry into the “true Church” usually took place during mass ceremonies performed by Ustashi priests, “watched” by armed units of Ustashi. Refusal, or even postponement, on the part of the prospective converts brought upon them immediate requisitioning of property, threats against themselves, their relatives, and their very lives.
Thousands embraced Catholicism in this manner. Following their “conversion,” the new Catholics wound in a procession to the local Catholic Church, as a rule escorted by units of piously armed Ustashi, chanting about the happiness of having at last become the children of the true Church, and ending up with Te Deums and prayers for the Pope. As if this were not sufficient, the villages where Serbs had been re-christened had to send congratulatory telegrams to Stepinac. For the eager Archbishop had, as befitted a good shepherd, ordered that the news of any mass conversions performed in any parish throughout Croatia be sent directly to him. Telegrams bearing such happy tidings were printed in the Ustashi paper, Nova Hrvatska, as well as in Stepinac’s own official Diocesan Journal, Katolicki List. In its issue of April 9, 1942, the former printed four such telegrams, all addressed to Stepinac. In these, the mass entries into the bosom of Mother Church were laconically and succinctly described. One, for example, 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.
Thirty per cent of Orthodox Serbs in the New Croatia were converted to Catholicism within a remarkably short period. The use of fear of losing property, or even life, however, was still not sufficient for most members of the Catholic Hierarchy engaged on this type of proselytization, and whenever resistance was encountered, Catholic clergymen ordered and, in fact, themselves often carried out the execution of many Orthodox. When collective resistance was met, ruthless collective punishment was inflicted upon the reluctant Orthodox. More often than not that meant torture and even execution.
Instances of such priestly murderers are many. Suffice it to mention a few. For example, Father Dr. Dragutin Kamber, a sworn Ustashi, but also a Jesuit priest. Father Dragutin ordered the killing of about 300 Orthodox Serbs in Doboj, and the court martial of 250 others, most of whom were shot. Or Father Dr. Branimir Zupanic, who had more than 400 men, women, and children killed in one village alone, Ragolje, and who was a personal friend of Ante Pavelic. During one of his sermons in the church of Gorica, Father Srecko Peric, of the Gorica monastery near Livno, advocated mass murders with the following words: “Kill all Serbs. First of all, kill my sister, who is married to a Serb, and then all Serbs. When you finish this work, come here to the Church and I will confess you and free you from sin.” This resulted in a massacre, on August 10, 1941, during which over 5,600 Orthodox Serbs in the district of Livno alone lost their lives.
The chief ecclesiastic murderer, however, was neither a mere Catholic clergyman nor a fanatical Jesuit. He was no less than a member of the Order of meek St. Francis: Nliroslav Filipovic, an Ustashi since long before the war, and a Franciscan monk. Father Filipovic killed a child with his own hands in the village of Drakulic, while addressing a battalion of Ustashi: “Ustashi,” was his curt brotherly exhortation, “I re-Christen these degenerates in the name of God. You follow my example.” One thousand five hundred Orthodox Serbs were then executed on one single day. Jasenovac, an Ustashi concentration camp which equalled Dachau in horror, not long afterwards received a new Commandant: Father Filipovic. In his new role, Filipovic, cooperating with Father Zvonko Brekalo, Zvonko Lipovac, and Father Culina, caused the deaths of 40,000 men, women, and children in the camp during the period of his administrations. 
The losses inflicted by these frenzied attempts of the Catholics to destroy the Orthodox Church were immense. The material damage amounted to 7 milliard pre-war gold diners. Out of twenty-one Orthodox bishops in Yugoslavia, one was taken to internment in Italy, two were forcibly removed from their sees and sent to Serbia, one was imprisoned with Patriarch Gavrilo, and then sent to Dachau concentration camp, two were beaten and sent to Serbia, where they died shortly afterwards, two died in internment camps, and five were murdered in cold blood.  About 400 Orthodox priests were sent to concentration camps, while about 700 (one-quarter of the total number of Orthodox priests) were killed. One-quarter of monasteries and churches were completely destroyed, about half of the total number were damaged, an unknown number were transformed into Catholic churches or Catholic halls. Out of 189 churches in the Gornjo Karlovachka diocese, for instance, 175 were burned and destroyed. 
The greatest losses, however, were inflicted among the humble members of the Orthodox Church. In Pavelic’s New Ustashi State, in fact, between April, 1941, and the spring of 1945, thanks to Ustashi units, Ustashi police, and concentration camps, at least 850,000 members of the Orthodox Church and citizens of Yugoslavia, including numerous Croats (plus 30,000 Jews and 40,000 Gypsies), perished thus.  Hundreds of Catholic priests and Catholic friars contributed, either directly or indirectly, to this colossal massacre.
To say that these were the deeds of individuals suffering from religious mania, or that these same individuals had discarded the most elementary rules of humanity, acting on their own initiative after scoring the admonitions of their Church and rebelling against her authority, is untrue. The Ustashi massacres, all the atrocities committed by either Catholic officials, priests, or monks, fell within a coolly calculated scheme for the total elimination of the Orthodox masses, actively or passively resisting their absorption into the Catholic fold. Indeed, it was the premeditated policy of the Catholic Hierarchy, acting on behalf of its true inspirer, the Vatican.
1. See Memorandum on Crimes of Genocide Committed against the Serbian People by the Government of the Independent State of Croatia during World War 11, dated October, 1950, sent to the President of the 5th General Assembly of the United Nations by Adam Pribicevic, President of the Independent Democratic Party of Yugoslavia; Dr. Vladimir Belajcic, former Justice of the Supreme Court of Yugoslavia; and Dr. Branko Miljus, former Minister of Yugoslavia.
2. See also Martyrdom of the Serbs, p. 176.
3. For list of names of Catholic priests who personally committed such crimes, see Martyrdom of the Serbs (p. 176), prepared by the Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese, for the USA and Canada, Palandech’s Press, Chicago, 1943. Archbishop Stepinac, had he been willing, could have punished them, with military sanctions, as their military vicar. It is sinisterly significant that the Vatican permitted Stepinac to become military vicar, in October, 1940, before Yugoslavia was invaded. See alsoTablet, January 17, 1953.
4. Katolicki Tjednik, No. 35, August 31, 1941.
5. Hrvatski Narod, December 25, 1941; Novi List, November 10, 1942.
6. Filipovic was regarded as abnormal even by many of his Ustashi colleagues. All the cases just quoted are authenticated and can be found in the files of the Yugoslav State Commission for the Investigation of War Crimes.
7. Throughout Yugoslavia only six were left at their posts.
8. These losses include the whole of Yugoslavia. The largest proportion, however, were willfully caused by Catholics in Croatia (figures published in Glasnik, official paper of the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchy, 1951).
9. These are official figures, reputedly on the conservative side. The Serbian Orthodox Patriarchy estimated the killings at 1,200,000.
THE TRUE INSPIRER, PROMOTER AND EXECUTOR OF THE RELIGIOUS MASSACRES: THE VATICAN
The most ruthless promoters of bloodshed throughout the ages have invariably been religious and political fanaticism. The history of man has proved this to have been true, not only in the past, but, more portentous still, now in the present. Ustashi Croatia is the most frightening instance of modern times. There the identification of Church with State, of civil with religious authority, of spiritual with military ruthlessness, was found to produce individuals who committed barbarities unimagined even by themselves. Cassocks and tonsures have never given moral strength to clergymen nor rendered them immune to human frailty, passion, or vice. The murdering Catholic priests in Croatia were the victims of primitive frenzy. As such, they should be judged more with pity than with execration. Can, however, the master minds in Zagreb and in Rome, calmly exploiting the blind emotionalism and even wickedness of their clerical subordinates, be acquitted from the condemnation which history has already passed on them? Their calculated promotion of the Ustashi terror cannot be either minimized, excused, or condoned. For the mass murders carried out by individuals appareled in clerical garb truly were instigated from the archiepiscopal palaces of the Catholic Hierarchy. That Hierarchy knew, nay, it approved and tacitly encouraged the sanguinary task. Not one single member of their clergy, while the Independent Kingdom of Croatia lasted, was ever called to account by them. Not a single priest was by them ever punished, suspended, or unfrocked. Archbishop Stepinac, or any Catholic Bishop, could have done that at any time, had he been willing, not only when dealing with the most flagrant crimes, but also with minor transgressions—e.g., clerical
|A Catholic priest “converting” a whole village. As a rule this meant collective mass baptism, particularly when villages had been surrounded by Ustashi detachments. The Catholic padres often used shock tactics to speed up matters, e.g., Father Ante Djuric, of the District of Dvor, who always opened his sermons with the following preliminary:
The Orthodox of this district have only three ways out: to accept the Catholic faith, to move out (leaving behind them all their possessions), or to be cleansed with the metal broom….
The higher clergy were no less explicit. Witness Bishop Mgr. Aksamovitcb, of Djakovo, who sent the following proclamation to all Orthodox Serbs in his diocese:
Up to now I have received into the fold of the Catholic Church several dozens of thousands of Orthodox. Follow the examples of these brothers of yours, send without delay your request for your prompt conversion to Catholicism. By being converted, you will be left in peace in your home….
For those who refused, or rebelled, the alternative was persecution, arrest, concentration camps, or even death.
The Ustashi, after raiding some Orthodox village, as a rule deported the women and children, either to concentration camps or to the nearest convent, where the “heretics” were re-baptized. This task was carried out by “Caritas,” a Catholic organization run by the Hierarchy.
Very often, however, women and children were massacred with the rest.
In the village of Susnjary, for instance, after killing most of the inhabitants, the Ustashi led away about twenty surviving children, whom they tied to the threshold of a barn, which was then set on fire. Most were burned alive. The few who survived, horribly scorched, were then killed. As testified by eye witness Gjordana Friendlender, the Ljubo Milos case.
On September 13, 1941, several youngsters were impaled. Girls had their breasts cut and their hands made to pass through them. Many died of starvation or disease in concentration camps ran by priests or monks. In this photograph, the surviving women and children of a raided village near Bosanska, Dudica, are being taken to a camp. (1941)
fomentation of racial and religious hatred by word of mouth, writing, or deeds. A Catholic priest may not write in the Press without episcopal approval. Canon Law is very specific on this matter. It decrees this: “Any priest who writes articles in daily papers or periodicals without permission of his own Bishop contravenes Canon 1386 of the Code of Canon Law.” Yet what happened? Clerical incitements to hate, to convert by force, and to massacre appeared in the ordinary Press without the Bishops uttering a single word of reprimand. They were even printed in the very ecclesiastical Press of the Catholic Hierarchy. Indeed, many bishops became the open advocates of forcible conversion, as proved by Mgr. Aksamovic, Bishop of Drjakovo, who sent the following proclamation to all Orthodox Serbs in his diocese:
Up to now I have received into the fold of the Catholic Church several dozens of thousands of Orthodox. Follow the example of these brothers of yours, and send, without any more delay, your request for your prompt conversion to Catholicism. By being converted to the Catholic Church you will be left in peace in your homes…and you will have ensured the salvation and the immortality of your souls…
Some priests, to their credit, protested openly, declaring that such instructions did not harmonize with the spirit of Christian teaching. Their bishops brought pressure upon them, to compel them to carry out the policy of forcible conversions. This was testified by none less than Bishop Aksamovic’s chaplain, Dr. Djuka Maric, at a hearing before Yugoslav authorities:
I and my friend and colleague, Stjepan Bogutovac,” said the chaplain, “were forced by our Bishop, Aksamovic, to go as missionaries to the Orthodox towns of Paucje and Cenkovo and to perform there the rituals of re-Christening all the inhabitants within a week’s time.”
The result was that, in the Bishopric of Djakovo, under the personal leadership of Bishop Aksamovic, there took place one of the biggest mass-conversions of Orthodox in the whole of Croatia.
The responsibility of the head of the Catholic Hierarchy is further demonstrated by the fact that he could have used disciplinary authority, in addition to having at his disposal canonical power. Stepinac, in fact, was not only the Chairman of the Bishops’ Conference; he had supreme control over the writing of the entire Catholic Press as Chairman of Catholic Action. Had he been willing to do so, he could have silenced any member of his clergy preaching the extermination of non-Catholics. Further to that, Archbishop Stepinac was invested with civil power, which he could have used, being a fully fledged Member of Parliament. Such power he shared with other prelates, among them: Mgr. Aksamovic, Bishop of Djakovo; Father Irgolitch, of Farkasic; Father Ante Lonacir, of Senj; Father Stjepan Pavunitch, of Koprivnica; Father Juraj Mikan, of Ogulin; Father Matija Politch, of Bakar; Father Toma Severovitch, of Krizevci; Brother Boniface Sipitch, of Tucepa; Franjo Skrinjar, of Djelekovac; Stipe Vucetitch, of Ledenice.
With such authority Stepinac could easily control and direct all the Catholic clergy. Had he been met with open defiance, he could simply apply military sanctions. For Stepinac was not only the highest ecclesiastical authority in the land: he had been created Supreme Military Apostolic Vicar of the Ustashi Army at the beginning of 1942. All priests attached to the Ustashi units were directly under him, as military subordinates. And, as a rule, these were the ones who either incited the soldiers to commit crimes or committed them themselves.
That the Catholic Hierarchy were the veritable promoters of the campaign of forcible conversions is further demonstrated by the fact that forced membership of Catholicism was made legal by governmental decree on May 3, 1941, when the Ustashi Government published a “Law concerning the conversion from one religion to another.” Additional measures on this matter followed. For instance, in June, 1941, the Ustashi Prime Minster set up (decree No.11,689) an Office on Religious Affairs, in charge of “all matters pertaining to questions connected with the conversion of the members of the Eastern Orthodox Church.” Did Stepinac or the Catholic Hierarchy protest at the decree? Far from it; they whole-heartedly supported the law. In fact, they saw to it that the Department had at its head a priest, that same intimate friend of Pavelic whom we have already encountered, Father Dionizije Juricev. This office came into being following the very private audience with Pius Xll accorded to Pavelic a month earlier. And perhaps of even greater significance is the fact that on June 30, 1941, the Minister of Justice and of Religions sent an official letter to all Catholic bishops, in which the Ustashi Government confirmed what had already been agreed with Archbishop Stepinac—namely, the
|The Bishops and Archbishops of Croatia gave full support to the Ustashi. Indeed, many of them were themselves Ustashi long before Ustashi Croatia came into being, e.g. Dr. Ivan Saric, the Archbishop of Sarajevo, who had been an Ustashi agitator since 1934. Or Mgr. Dionizije, one of the Heads of the Ministry of Cults, dealing with forcible conversions, who was Ante Pavelic’s confessor.
Others became full fledged members of the Ustashi Parliament, e.g. Mgr. Aksamovic, Bishop of Djakovo. The Hierarchy were the inspirers of the forcible mass conversions. A Committee of Three dealing with them was composed of the Bishop of Senj, the Bishop of Krizevci, Dr. Simrak, and Archbishop Stepinac himself, working in conjunction with the Ustashi Minister of Justice.
The whole Hierarchy gave canonical sanction to forcible conversions, following a Bishops’ Conference in Zagreb, November 17, 1941. Ante Pavelic’s regime stood upon the Hierarchy’s unqualified support.
Here, he is seen surrounded by the Croatian Bishops and Archbishops during one of their frequent conferences with him.
The Vatican was well informed of what was going on inside Ustashi Croatia. Not only because the Catholic Hierarchy sent the Pope regular reports, but because the Pope had his own personal representative there.
The duty of the Papal Legate was to send regular and accurate information on the exertions of the Catholic clergy and Bishops. Also on the political and military doings of the Ustashi Government and of its leaders.
Pope Pius XII’s representative on the spot was the Papal Legate, Mgr. Marcone, who was accredited to the Ustashi Government and to Pavelic. Mgr. Marcone was minutely briefed on every aspect of the Catholic Hierarchy and the Ustashi collaborators. In fact, he was the spokesman, not only of the Croatian Hierarchy when reporting to the Vatican, but equally of Pius XII when reporting to Archbishop Stepinac and Pavelic.
Above, Mgr. Marcone, flanked by Archbishop Stepinac and Nazi-Ustashi officers, at a Ustashi Meeting.
pursuance of a policy of liquidation of all the most influential strata of the Orthodox population—this to be carried out through refusal to accept them into the Catholic Church. “It is the wish of the Government,” said the circular, “that all the priests, teachers, and, in fact, all the intellectuals belonging to the Orthodox Church, in addition to businessmen, industrialists, and the rich peasants, must on no account be accepted into the Catholic Church. Only the poor Orthodox population must be converted.”
The fanatical determination of the Catholic Hierarchy to destroy the Orthodox religion at its very roots is demonstrated by their cold-blooded attitude towards the surviving Orthodox children who, unlike their parents, had escaped extermination. All these children were placed in public homes directed by Catholic priests or Catholic sisters, under the auspices of Caritas, the Catholic organization run by the Hierarchy. In many cases they were put in the care of private Catholic families. What was the real objective of such extraordinary Catholic compassion? The implanting into their “lost souls” of “the true faith,” as a prerequisite for their bodies being saved. Their religious assimilation was speedy, ruthless, and efficient. Officially converted to Catholicism, re-baptized with Catholic names, growing up in Catholic surroundings, these children, under continuous relentless Catholic pressure quickly lost all contact with their original ethnic and religious group. The inevitable result was that they were soon absorbed into the Catholic fold. Their assimilation was so thorough that even after Pavelic’s collapse it became impossible to trace most of them, documents relating to their origin often having been willfully destroyed. Fleeing Ustashi took a number of such children with them to their main country of refuge, the Argentine. Others were taken to Italy. The wholesale kidnapping of Orthodox children was a characteristic feature of the forcible conversion, through terror, of Orthodox adults.
The former Apostolic Administrator and Bishop of Krizevci, Dr. Simrak, like many of his episcopal colleagues, publicly promoted, discussed, and encouraged plans for the whole campaign, and published directives to his clergy in the official Bishopric News of Krizevci, No. 2, 1942. Part of the text reads as follows:
Directive regarding the conversion of the members of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Slavonia, Srijem and Bosnia.
Special offices and church committees must be created immediately for those to be converted…. Let every curate remember that these are historic days for our missions and we must under no circumstances let this opportunity pass…. Now we must show with our work what we have been talking about for centuries in theory. We have done very little until now because….we are afraid of complaints from the people. Every great work has someone opposing it. Our universal mission, the salvation of souls and the greatest glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, is involved in this issue. Our work is legalbecause it is in accord with official Vatican policy and with the directives of the saintly congregations of the Cardinals for the Eastern Church.
If these extraordinary directives had been issued by one single bishop, or even by several bishops, their significance would have incriminated the Catholic Church beyond excuse. But when it is considered that the Bishop of Krizevci, far from acting on his own, was officially following the instructions promulgated by his own very Primate, then the gravity of such instructions assumes a meaning transcending the deeds of a local Hierarchy and trespassing into fields affecting the most sacred principles of religious liberty of all men. The programme of forcible conversions was given canonic sanction after Stepinac had convened a Bishops’ Conference in Zagreb on November 17, 1941—that is, the year before. From that date onward the entire Catholic Hierarchy adopted a programme which was officially followed until the fall of Pavelic. Indeed, the programme which gave hierarchical sanction to the policy of forcible conversions was further strengthened by the actual setting up of a Committee of Three. The task of the holy triumvirate? To promote the policy of the forcible conversions, in conjunction with the Ustashi Minister of Justice and Religion. The names of the Members of the Committee need no comment: the Bishop of Senj, the Apostolic Administrator, Dr. Janko Simrak, and the Archbishop of Zagreb, Mgr. Stepinac. Some of the revealing clauses of the decree read thus:
The Council of Croatian Bishops, at a conference held in Zagreb on the 17th day of December, 1941, upon deliberations in regard to the conversion of Serbians of Orthodox faith to Roman Catholicism, promulgates the following decree:
|The Papal legate (in white), Archbishop Stepinac, Ante Pavelic (in Ustashi uniform) and his wife, at the opening of a home for children at Tuskanac.
Pope Pius XII’s representative participated in most of the official and semi-official functions of Ustashi Croatia. He was an eyewitness to the promotion of Pavelic and to Stepinac’s policies of terrorization and Catholicization of Croatia. He knew of the atrocities and horrors taking place. He watched the progress of the forcible conversions, was aware of the wholehearted participation of the clergy in the wholesale massacre of thousands of Orthodox Serbs. All these things he faithfully reported to Pope Pius XII. In addition, Croatian Bishops wrote dispatches on the Ustashi horrors to the Pope, e.g. Dr. Ujchich, Catholic Archbishop of Belgrade.
The purpose of Homes for Children was usually to re-baptize Orthodox orphans and thus convert them to the Catholic Church.
Catholic Religious Orders gave total and continuous support to the Ustashi. Before the establishment of the Independent Stale of Croatia (1941) their convents were hiding places for Ustashi terrorists, concealed Ustashi presses and were depositories of Ustashi subversive literature and even of hand grenades, guns and dynamite.
The Ustashi carried out their activities screened by the members of Religious Orders, male and female. Nuns prepared uniforms, emblems and medical equipment for Ustashi detachments.
Nuns looked after “poor little orphans,” i.e. children whose parents had been murdered by the Ustashi, all of which children were re-baptized into the Catholic Church. In this manner thousands were converted to “the true faith.” Hundreds of Catholic nuns became specialized in the “conversion” of the young.
In this photograph, Ante Pavelic is shown surrounded by Catholic nuns after one of his visits to a Catholic convent engaged upon the furtherance of the Ustashi Catholicization of Croatia.
- Concerning the vital question of the conversion of those of Serbian Orthodox faith into Roman Catholicism, the Catholic Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, according to divine right and church canons, retains sole and exclusive jurisdiction in issuing necessary prescriptions for said purpose, consequently, any action from any other but ecclesiastical authority is excluded.
- The Catholic Ecclesiastical Hierarchy has the exclusive right to nominate and appoint missionaries with the object of converting those of the Serbian Orthodox into the Catholic faith. Every missionary shall obtain permission for his spiritual work from the nearest local church authority…
- It is necessary that for conversions to be achieved, a psychological basis should be created among the Serbian Orthodox followers. With this object in view they should be guaranteed not only civil rights, but in particular they should be granted the right of personal freedom and also the right to hold property.
Thereupon the Conference of these holy men released a complementary resolution (No. 253). In this they explained in more detail how certain forcible conversions were to be carried out. Then a second committee, which was directly under the Conference of the Catholic bishops, was set up, with the task of putting into practice the policy of forcible conversions. The list of its five members is significant: Dr. Franjo Hermann, Professor of the Theological Faculty of Zagreb; Dr. Augustin Juretitch, Adviser to the Conference of the Catholic Bishops; Dr. Janko Kalaj, Professor of Religious Education; Dr. Krunoslav Draganovitch, Professor of the Theological Faculty of Zagreb; and Mgr. Nikola Boritch, director of the Administration of the Archbishopric of Zagreb.
When examined without the frills and obscurities of their official phraseology, the various directives issued by these Hierarchical bodies turn out to be but faithful copies of similar instructions repeatedly given for centuries throughout the Christendom of the darkest Middle Ages. For that is what in reality they are. That a Catholic Hierarchy should have been permitted to re-issue them in the middle of the twentieth century is certainly one of the most sinister social phenomena of a civilization in swift decay.
The revival of a policy of forcible conversion assumes an even more portentous significance when one remembers that it occurred with the tacit approval of the Vatican. Had the Vatican disapproved, not a single priest could have taken part in the massacres or forcible conversions. A village priest can act only with the approval of minor Hierarchs who themselves cannot move without the permission of their Bishop, while the Bishop, in his turn, must act according to the instructions of his Archbishop; the Archbishop only on those of the Primate; the Primate on the direct instructions of the Vatican. The Vatican is the personal dominion of the Pope. The Pope being the central pivot of the vast Hierarchical machinery, it follows that the ultimate responsibility for all members of the clergy—or, to be more precise, for the collective action of any given national Hierarchy—rests with him. This cannot be otherwise. For policies of great import must be submitted to him before their promotion by all Hierarchies the world over, the Pope being their sole authority. If the responsibility for the monstrous persecutions rests with the head of the National Hierarchy—i.e. Stepinac—it has automatically to rest also with the Head of the Universal Church, without whose consent the Catholic Hierarchy would not have dared to act—i.e. with Pius XII.
Pius XII could not plead ignorance of what was going on in Croatia by bringing forward the excuse of the obstacles of war. Communication between Rome and Croatia was as easy and as free as in peace-time. From the very beginning of hostilities the Nazi Ambassador at the Vatican was treated as of far greater importance than all the Allied diplomats. In 1940-2 the Vatican was on the most cordial terms with Hitler. Political and religious Ustashi leaders came and went between Rome and Zagreb as freely as did the Germans and Italians, the Ustashi State then being a satellite of Nazi Germany, and hence a province of the Nazi Empire. Moreover, the Pope knew what was happening in Croatia, not only through the Hierarchical administrative machinery, which kept him up to date on all Croatian events, but also through other reliable sources. They were:
(a) The Papal Legate. Pius XII, it should never be forgotten, had a personal representative in Croatia, whose task was to implement Vatican policy and coordinate it with that of Pavelic, as well as reporting on religious and political matters to the Pope himself. The Papal Legate to Croatia was Mgr. Marcone, who openly blessed the Ustashi, publicly gave the Fascist salute, and encouraged Catholics (e.g. when he went to Mostar) to be “faithful to the Holy See, which had helped that same people for centuries against Eastern barbarism“—that is to say, against the Orthodox Church and the Serbs. Thus, the Pope’s official representative openly instigated religious persecution, as well as praying for victory “under the leadership of the Head of the State,
Pavelic,” against the Yugoslav National Liberation Army in 1944-5.
(b) Cardinal Tiseran, head of the Holy Congregation of Eastern Churches. This congregation’s specific task was to deal with Eastern Churches. Cardinal Tiseran received detailed reports of every forcible conversion and massacre in Croatia. Between April and June, 1941, over 100,000 Orthodox Serbs were massacred; yet Cardinal Tiseran, on July 17, 1941, had the audacity to declare that Archbishop Stepinac would now do a great work for the development of 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.”
(c) Ante Pavelic, who, by his representative to the Vatican, through whom Pius XII sent “special blessing to the Leader (Pavelic),” forwarded regular reports, at times straight from the Minister of Religions, about the “rapid” progress of the Catholicization of the New Croatia.
(d) Last but not least, Archbishop Stepinac himself, who in person visited Pius XII twice, and who supplied His Holiness with figures of the forcible conversions. In an official document, dated as late as May 8, 1944, His Eminence Archbishop Stepinac, head of the Catholic Hierarchy, in fact, informed the Holy Father that to date “244,000 Orthodox Serbs” had been “converted to the Church of God.” 
|Monks and Friars were the backbone of the policy of forcible conversions. Many participated in acts of terrorism. E.g. Simic Vjeckoslav, a Monk of the monastery at Knin, who killed dozens of Orthodox with his own hands. Sidoniie Solo, another Monk of the Franciscan monastery in Nasice, deported the Orthodox population of whole villages. The Abbot of the monastery of Gunlic, Father G. Castimir, directed the massacre of hundreds of Orthodox at Glina.
Father Dr. Dragutin Kamber, a Jesuit, ordered the killing of about 300 Orthodox in Doboj, and the court martial of 250 others, most of whom were shot.
Father Srecko Peric, of the Gorica monastery, on August lit, 1941, personally incited the massacre of more than 5,600 Orthodox in the district of Livno.
Friars were Ustashi officers. Others Commandants of Concentration Camps .Above, Ante Pavelic during one of his periodical visits to Franciscan monasteries.
A band of Ustashi robbing the Orthodox Serbs of their possessions before shooting them. This picture was taken near Mount Kozara, in 1942.
The Ustashi, prior to executing their prisoners, very often mutilated and tortured. When dealing with Orthodox churches, they kept all the valuables to themselves or shared them with the Catholic Padres. The latter not only accepted the “gifts” but transferred to the Catholic Church the property of the Orthodox parishes. Such property included the baptism registers and all other official and semi-official documents.
Catholic padres and the Ustashi asked for money also as a condition for saving the lives of those they converted, e.g. the Catholic priest of Ogulin, Canon Ivan Mikan, who charged 180 diners for each forced conversion. In the Orthodox village of Jasenak alone he collected 80,000 diners.
Catholic Monasteries became gorged with Orthodox valuables and goods. Many of these were sent to the Catholic Bishops.
1. Glasnik krizevacke nadbiskupife, No. 2, 1942.
2. Other clauses of the decree:
3. Such missionaries shall be responsible only to the local church authorities or directly to the local Catholic priests.
4. The Roman Catholic Church will recognize as binding only those conversions which have been made in accordance with these dogmatic principles.
5. Secular authorities shall have no right to annul conversions made by the Church representatives.
6. The Croatian Catholic Bishops constitute a directorium consisting of three persons…they are authorized to consult with the Minister of Religion on all questions relating to necessary and proper procedure….
9. Concerning the rites to be applied in the conversions, the Croatian Roman Catholic Bishops will adopt in full the rule prescribed by the Holy Congregation of the Eastern Church as of July, 1941, and which has been communicated to the President of the Bishops’ Council….
10. The Committee of the Croatian Catholic Bishops for conversions will organize courses for those priests who are to act as instruments in the conversions of the Serbian Orthodox into the Catholic Church. In these courses they will receive both theoretical and practical instructions for their work.
3. The authenticity of his reply was personally confirmed by Dr. Grizogono’s son, Dr. N. Grizogono, a practicing Catholic. For further details, see Ally Betrayed, by David Martin, 1946. Archbishop Stepinac wrote to Pavelic about the conversion—more than once. See Mgr. Stepinac’s long letter to Pavelic on the conversions, first translated and published by Hubert Butler.
CATHOLIC CAMPAIGN OF DENIAL, SMEAR AND FALSIFICATION
Rumours of the forcible conversions of the Ustashi massacres began to leak out of the Independent Catholic State of Croatia from its earliest stage. At first they received hardly any credence. That people should be killed for their religion could not be accepted in the middle of the 20th Century.
Yet the tales of individual witnesses, when added to the stories of Italian Fascist troops and even Nazi ones, could not be ignored forever. In view also of the fact that many described the Croatian horrors in their letters home, some having even taken “snaps” of the deeds.
When, finally, these could no longer be denied, counterrumors began to circulate to the effect that they were anti-Catholic propaganda, anti-Croat lies. Indeed, even “Gestapo-cooked” inventions. The Croats and their Catholic supporters accused the Nazis, the Communists, the Serbs, and even the Allies, in turn, of having started the atrocity stories.
Since evidence, however, went on accumulating, they were finally compelled to adopt three well defined tactics, which they carried out with simultaneous consistency: (a) the prevention of the arrival of fresh news; (b) the playing down or minimization, and even denial, of what had already become known; and (c) a smear campaign against all and sundry engaged upon telling about events in Croatia.
The intrigues, lies, plots and utter falsification directed to these ends became a grand strategy in themselves. We shall content ourselves with a few characteristic examples, since each is typical of the methods adopted from the very beginning.
In 1941 Dr. Milosh Sekulich, then in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia, was charged with a mission of a military, political and ecclesiastical nature: to take certain important documents to the Allied Headquarters in London. Those who sent him: General Mihailovich, leader of the Chetnik forces, and the Bishops of the Orthodox Church of Serbia.
Having accepted, he undertook the perilous journey, left Yugoslavia and successfully reached Istanbul, Turkey on 27th September, 1941. The exiled Yugoslav Government in London, having been informed of Dr. Sekulich’s task, proposed on 6th October, 1941, on the initiative of their Premier, General Simovich, that the trip to London be financed by the Government. In view of the importance of the Doctor’s mission, the Premier’s motion was unanimously accepted.
Assured of the blessing of the Yugoslav Government, Dr. Sekulich then proceeded to Egypt. From Egypt he went to the Sudan, from there to the Congo, and finally to Lagos. It must be remembered that at this period the Fascist and Nazi armies were in control of North Africa and of the Mediterranean. Once in Lagos, however, he had to stop. The funds had been cut short. What had happened?
A Minister of the Yugoslav Government in charge of Finances, a devout Catholic Croat, had withdrawn the necessary money.
Unable to proceed further, Dr. Sekulich, with his documents, would have to remain in deepest Africa for “the duration.” The evidence of the forcible conversions and Catholic massacres in this manner would never reach the Allies. Or, at least, would be greatly delayed.
The Croat’s plan almost succeeded. But for the generosity of a Czechoslovak, the Manager of Bata in Lagos.
Dr. Sekulich brought to London two important documents: one hidden in the sole of his shoes and the other sewn into the lining of his suit. (A) A map of Mihailovich’s Chetnik Headquarters, (B) two Appeals by the Serbian Orthodox Church, sent first to General Schroeder, Commander-in-Chief of the Nazi occupational forces in Serbia and then to General Dunkelmann, who had replaced General Schroeder. In these two appeals, the Serbian Orthodox Church asked the Nazi Generals to intervene with Ante Pavelic to stop the massacre of the Serbs. The documents began as follows:
“The persecutions of the Orthodox Serbs started from the very beginning of the existence of the Independent State of Croatia… Following the departure of the German and Italian occupying troops (in 1941) persecution, plunder, torture of the Serbs, which until then had been checked, turned into a veritable program, directed at a complete extermination of the Orthodox Serbian people. Catholic Croatian Minister, Dr. Lile Budak, Dr. Milovan Zanic, Dr. Mirko Puk, and the Ustashi leader Dr. Victor Gutic competed against each other to incite the Croatians against the Orthodox Serbs.
“As a result of such policy, thousands of Serbs were taken to concentration camps, Orthodox priests and their families were arrested, the birth, marriages and deaths registers of the Orthodox Church were handed over to the Catholic diocesan authorities, Orthodox Churches were destroyed, monasteries plundered, and the Serbian people forced to abandon their Orthodox religion and adopt Catholicism. We are sorry to have to relate that in all these misdeeds, the Catholic clergy also participated….
“We estimate that, so far (August 8th, 1941), the number of people killed surpasses 180,000….
“One of the first victims of Ustashi terror was Platon, Bishop of Banjaluka, together with the Orthodox Canon Dusan Subotich, of Bosanska Gradishka. They were murdered on the night of 5th-6th June, 1941, on the road between Banjaluka and Kotor Varos. Their bodies were thrown into the river Vrbanja….
“Canon Branko Dobosavljevic, of Vljuna district of Slunj, who was ordered by the Ustashi to dig the grave of his own son, a student…. In the end he, too, was tortured and killed on the same spot. Their killer: Ustashi Ivan Scheifer, a teacher….
“The Orthodox priest, Djordje Bogic, of Nasice, killed 18th June, 1941. Priest Bogic was tied to a tree and tortured. They first cut off his ears, nose and tongue, then pulled off his beard together with the skin. He died only after they ripped open his chest….
“Dusan Brankovic, a Member of Parliament, had his throat cut on 19th June, 1941….
“Dr. Veljko Torbica, who, before being killed near Gracica had his flesh cut into slices and salt put into his wounds….
“Milos Teslitch, a manufacturer of Sisak. His body was washed ashore from the river Sava with his eyes stubbed out, flesh cut off his face, and his whole body covered with knife slashes… The Ustashi photographed themselves with this disfigured body….”The Metropolitan of Zagreb, Dositej, Bishop Nikolaj of Mostar
|On the left, Bogdanovic, executed by the Communists, beside Disan Brancovic. Brancovic, a Member of Parliament, was executed without even the presence of legality. Prior to his murder, the Ustashi amused themselves by slashing his chest with knives and ultimately scooped his eyes from their sockets. He was a close friend of Dr. Milos Sekulich (third from left), the man whom the Orthodox Church of Serbia charged with taking their appeals and documentation of the Ustashi atrocities to the Allies in London.
The Ustashi tortured and executed Members of Parliament, including Orthodox clergy and Bishops. Very often they seized their relatives, whom they sent to concentration camps or forced to become Catholics.
The Ustashi persecuted Orthodox personalities even after the collapse of Hitler and of Ustashi Croatia. Going so far even as to terrorize their fellow Croatians abroad by extorting “contributions” from them for the cause and by planting bombs in homes and public places, e.g., West Germany in 1964, Australia in 1965, and the USA in 1967.
One of the most horrifying documents of Ustashi brutality, Milos Teslitch, an Orthodox Serb industrialist, after having been burned in the town of Sisak. One Ustashi is holding the heart of the victim. The photograph was taken as a souvenir by an Ustashi who took part in the execution. Mainly responsible for this notorious crime was Catholic Faget.
The Ustashi did not hesitate to crucify their victims, e.g. Luka Avramovitch, former Member of Parliament, and his son, who were both crucified and then burned in their own home in Mliniste, in the district of Glamoc.
On the 20th August 1941 the Ustashi took all Orthodox Serbs to the woods of Koprivnica, between Bugojeo and Kupres, and killed the lot. Before the massacre, women had their breasts cut, arms and legs broken. Some men were blinded by way of having their eyes cut with knives.
During the night of 31st July/ Ist August 1941, in the town of Prijedor, the Ustashi massacred 1,400 people. The Nazis were so horrified that they occupied the town and compelled the Ustashi to leave.
and Bishop Sava Trlajic of Plasko, with many of their priests, were all deported… Today there are no longer any Orthodox priests in Croatia, except for those arrested. To realize the seriousness of these measures, it should be remembered that there are eight Orthodox Dioceses in the Independent State of Croatia, with a large number of clergy, all of whom are now missing… In this manner the Serbian people are entirely without their spiritual leaders, left to the mercy of the Ustashi and of the Catholic clergy….”
The Appeals thereupon gave numerous accounts of the crimes committed until then by the Ustashi, some of which we have already examined. Faced by such circumstantial evidence, Catholic propagandists then engaged upon a campaign of vituperation and distortion. They began by saying that Dr. Sekulich was a Gestapo Agent. This, although as soon as he arrived in London Dr. Sekulich had been received by Mr. Leopold Amery, Minister of State for India and right-hand man of Winston Churchill, then British Premier.
At the same time they asserted that the “atrocity stories” were lies. Sava Kosanovich, Yugoslav Minister, declared from the USA “This is the work of Nazi and Fascist propaganda… to which some people have lent themselves as naive accomplices.” (November 1941).
Others affirmed that only the Ustashi had committed the crimes. “I repudiate all attempts to associate the Croatian people with Pavelic and his Ustashi,” said Catholic Croat Dr. Subavich, Governor of Croatia in exile, “or to accuse them of the massacres which are going on…if they are going on, ” he ended. (15th November 1941).
In spite of denials and distortions, the fact remained that the Croatian atrocities had occurred. And no one knew about their authenticity better than the members of the Yugoslav Government. Should they lend their authoritative voice to the Appeals of the Serbian Orthodox Church?
There followed a serious crisis. Croat and Slovene members, all Catholics, threatened the Government with an irreparable split.
At this time it must not be forgotten that the paramount concern of the exiled Government was to remain united. That is, to keep together the three main nationalities—Serbs, Croats and Slovenes—which formed Yugoslavia, and so prevent the disintegration of the Kingdom, while at the same time offering a united front against Hitler.
To avoid a major split, the Government finally decided NOT to publish the news of the massacres. Indeed, to remain silent, and even to deny altogether that they had occurred.
Notwithstanding this decision, however, the news soon leaked out. The News Chronicle published an article about them (3rd January 1942), “180,000 die in Serb Terror. Mass murders of men, women and children are described by the Archbishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church in a document which has reached the Yugoslav Legation in London. It is the most ghastly record of bestiality yet compiled during the present war…. In the village of Korito, the Archbishops records, 163 peasants were tortured, tied into bundles of three and thrown into a pit. Some were found still alive, so the Ustashi threw in bombs to finish them off…”
“…266 bodies are consigned to this pit. Subsequently petrol was poured into it and set alight. More than 600 people were killed in and around Krupa between July 25th and 30th. Most of them had been cut to pieces with knives, axes and scythes. In one place, four Orthodox Serbs were crucified on the doors of their houses, tortured and finally killed with knives,” reported the Daily Telegraph (3rd January 1942). “It is suggested that the names (of the criminals) should go before an international court of justice to be set up after the war…”
The Press releases created a sensation. There were protests on both sides of the Atlantic, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Catholics set in motion a by-focal campaign of minimization and defamation. One of its most successful promoters was an American Catholic left-winger, of Slovene origin, Louis Adamic. Adamic set out to prove to the American people that the massacres were not true. Or that, if true, they had been rigged. And, last but not least, that the “Chetnik Courier,” as he labeled Dr. Sekulich, was a Nazi Agent.
Since Adamic’s tactics were universally adopted during and after the war, it might be instructive to glance at them.According to him: “the atrocities were all propaganda…to stir up anti-Catholicism…” However, to give the impression of “impartiality,” Adamic eventually explained, in a book entitled My Native Land, how he dealt with the issue.
“What could we do,” he wrote, referring to the news of the Croatian horrors. “There just might be some basis for these horrible stories… (note his reluctant admission)…. None of our little group in New York could get into occupied Yugoslavia to investigate the facts. The nearest we could get was London.
“The following resume includes facts learned and corroborated,” he continued. “Large scale massacres of Serbians in Croatia occurred. But,” he commented, “the total number of victims was not anywhere near 180,000 (the lowest figure previously reported). Reliable estimates from inside Yugoslavia were TENS OF THOUSANDS ONLY.
“Secondly, “the massacres were not perpetrated by the Croatian people, but by the Ustashi.”
Thirdly, “Yes, Catholic priests converted the Orthodox,” Adamic admitted, but “Catholic priests in Croatia accompanied Ustashi murder squads and ‘converted’ thousands of Orthodox Serbians to Catholicism under the threat of death from Ustashi guns, much as the Spanish padres accompanying the conquistadors ‘converted’ the Central and South American Indians.”
Adamic could not deny the existence of photographs. But no one should believe them, he commented. Here are his words:
Photographs of the massacres existed. I saw them. Some were horrible beyond utterance. There were pictures of vast piles of bodies, of stacked up heads, tubfulls of necklaces of human eyes… But only a few looked authentic…it was clear that most of them were arranged by Gestapo photographers. In two or three pictures, men in the garb of Catholic priests were among Ustashi.
After which Adamic drew his own conclusion:
ALL OR MOST of the pictures,” he said, “were taken by Gestapo agents, who turned them over to Serbian Orthodox clergymen… The Orthodox priests reacted just as the Gestapo had expected… They must get this information to the Yugoslav Government in London… The Gestapo helped to arrange this. A Serbian messenger, Dr. Sekulich, got out of Axis-occupied Yugoslavia with a German and a Quisling passport…and gave the photographs, the report of a puppet bishop, and other documents – all Gestapo approved – to the Yugoslav diplomatic officials in Istanbul. The material was then rushed to London by the same courier, Sekulich… British authorities arrested him…as a Nazi Agent…but he was released on the insistence of the Yugoslav Government’s inner clique….”The inner clique,” continued Adamic, “relayed the Gestapo information about the massacres by diplomatic pouch to Fotich in Washington and elsewhere… It also submitted the story to the Bishop (sic) of Canterbury, who reacted just as the clique, and Hitler, desired….” and so on.
Adamic’s tactics were too good to be ignored. He was the Catholic spearhead of another Catholic master truth-distorter who was to plague the USA a decade later, Senator Joseph McCarthy. As with Senator McCarthy, so also with Adamic the ponderous Catholic machinery was set in motion to promote the Adamic line.
The Catholic and Catholic-controlled Press and Radio of the U.S.A. and Allied Governments followed suit. Result: the atrocities were minimized, their genuineness questioned when not attributed to anti-Catholic propaganda, and finally they were forgotten. Had the Adamic lobby been confined to that, it would have been bad enough. But it succeeded in preventing the truth from reaching quarters with sufficient authority to prevent the prolongation of the situation, e.g. the President of the USA. For Adamic and his supporters had, indeed, managed to get the ear of President Roosevelt himself.
The insidiousness of the Adamic technique can be judged by the fact that Adamic was eventually to give account to Dr. Sekulich in court. Another wrongly accused victim: Winston Churchill. Adamic’s book, Dinner at the White House, (to quote the Law Report, January 15th, 1947, High Court of Justice) “purported to be a description of a dinner party given at the White House by the late President Roosevelt, at which Mr. Winston Churchill, then Prime Minister, and the author were present. With this dinner as the starting point, the book proceeded to a criticism of both Mr. Churchill personally . . . and of his actions and supposed policy in relation to the war…”
In this book Mr. Adamic insinuated that “the motives of the British Policy in Greece were at least partly linked to the fact that Hambro’s Bank of London, the chief British creditors of Greece (getting up to 17 per cent on their loans) had bailed Winston Churchill out of bankruptcy in 1912….”A grosser libel upon a public man holding the high position which Mr. Churchill held is difficult to conceive… But the reflection made upon his solvency is as nothing to the suggestion that in his capacity of Prime Minister he had allowed his private feelings and his private interests to sway and influence the policy and conduct of public affairs by the Government of which he was the head, and especially in regard to operations of war in which blood was shed.” 
Churchill, like Sekulich, issued a writ for libel action. Four years later, in 1951, Mr. Adamic was shot dead in Milford, USA. The reality of the Catholic massacres and forcible conversions remained hazy to many people: not only because of their incredible nature, but also because of the Catholic lobby. The present author himself for some years remained skeptical about them. Used as he was to the saturation technique of war propaganda (being, at that time, employed in the Intelligence and Political Warfare of the Allies’ war machine), even after meeting Dr. Sekulich he accepted the Croatian atrocities with skepticism. It took some years before finally he became convinced of their veracity. During this time he contacted Yugoslavs of all classes. From General Mirkovich, the man who caused the overthrow of the Yugoslav Government when the latter signed a pact with Hitler and thus brought his country into the Allies’ camp (1941) to the humblest manual worker.
Not content with this, the author personally interrogated numerous Orthodox Serbs, and even Catholic Croats, who had been eyewitnesses of the Ustashi massacres. Indeed, he even met victims who had escaped them. In addition to which, on the 20th May 1951, Dr. Sekulich, General Mirkovich and he held a special meeting in London. This was attended by victims of the Ustashi residing in England, from whom further documentation was received. All authenticated with names, dates and places.A typical case was that related by a survivor of the Ustashi, Vojislav Zivanic (father, Duko; brother, Bogoljub), from Dukovsko, before witnesses and under oath, which we have already mentioned elsewhere. In June 1943 an Ustashi contingent, passing through the village of Zijimet, rounded up seventy-four villagers, put them into a shed, and set this on fire. Among the victims were the aunt of the eyewitness and her two children. This man lost twenty-five members of his family, all burned alive.
The author of this book was not the only doubter of the Croatian nightmare. Thousands of others shared his skepticism. The result of the insidious Catholic brainwashing propaganda, promoted by Catholics who had adopted Adamic’s techniques. An early victim was an illustrious personage who, because of her status and that of her husband, gave added significance to the damage which the Catholic Adamic falsifications of history worked in responsible places. Not long after Mr. Winston Churchill took Adamic to Court (1947), the present author, at a private dinner party in Upper Brook Street, Mayfair, London, met Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the late American President. Since, at this period, the author was engaged upon his inquiries concerning the authenticity of the Ustashi, he asked Mrs. Roosevelt whether she had ever heard of them.
One of the worst, if not the worse, crimes of the war, was her prompt reply. I heard of them in the winter of 1941-2. Neither I nor my husband at first believed them to be true.
“I did not believe them either,” the present author commented. I assumed them to be propaganda.”
We thought the same, replied Mrs. Roosevelt. “The Catholic lobby was the most successful at the White House for years.”
Had she ever heard of an American author, L. Adamic? She had. One of the many who had persuaded her husband that the atrocity stories from Croatia had been concocted by the Nazi propaganda machine. Could she explain why these Catholic atrocities were not as well known as the Nazi ones? Nazi Germany is no more,” replied Mrs. Roosevelt. “The Catholic Church is still here with us. More powerful than ever. With her own Press and the World Press at her bidding. Anything published about the atrocities in the future will not be believed….”The present author thereupon told her he was writing a book about them.”Your book might convince a few,” she commented. “But what about the hundreds of millions already brainwashed by Catholic propaganda?” A few years later, in 1953, when the book was eventually published, although two editions were sold within weeks, no part of the British or American Press dared even to mention it.
The Yugoslav Government bought a few thousand copies, which were distributed free to the members of the House of Commons and House of Lords. Apart from a massive silence from both Houses, the only comments to reach the author were “utter nonsense,” “rubbish” and “things of the past.” And “even if true, why revive them now?” Mrs. Roosevelt had been right.
During 1942, however, news of the massacres finally reached the outside world. And while the majority of Catholics denied or minimized them, not a few condemned them, e.g. Dr. Ivan Chok, a Catholic Slovene, who on 15th March 1942 ended a broadcast by saying “the long arm of justice will surely reach the guilty ones, to punish them mercilessly.”Another Slovene, Dr. Kuhar, a Catholic priest, in the Catholic Herald, 20th February 1942, and in the Catholic Times, 22nd February 1942, repudiated the Croatian methods of forcible conversion. “We as Catholics…have the right and have the duty to condemn with all our might any conversion to our faith by force,” he wrote. Dr. Vilder, a Croat and a Catholic, during a broadcast condemned not only the atrocities but also those who tacitly encouraged them. “Orthodox people are being forcibly converted to Catholicism, and yet we do not hear one single word of protest from Archbishop Stepinac,” he said (16th March 1942). Another Catholic Croat, Mr. Jerich, who escaped from Yugoslavia, issued a declaration jointly with a Dalmatian Croat, Mate Ruskovich (23rd July 1943): “We protest against mass massacre and forced Catholicization of Serbian Orthodox population….”
Catholics and non-Catholics alike not only protested, but addressed themselves to the Catholic authorities, both in Croatia and in Rome. Their protests, however, fell upon deaf ears. While Archbishop Stepinac and Pope Pius Xll went on giving ever more frequent thanks to a merciful God for the increasing number of forcible conversions, additional protesting voices began to be heard with mounting insistence within and without Croatia. The sneers of those who at first had regarded the news as a crude form of anti-Catholic propaganda, as reliable information began to leak out ceased and gave way, first to astonishment and then to horror. Appeals were made to Stepinac, the Pope and the Allies from all over Europe. Not only from Serbs, who had every reason for letting the world know, but also from Catholics, who could not accept such a bloody degradation of their religion. Some lodged horrified protests with Archbishop Stepinac, and, indeed, direct with the Vatican. Perhaps one of the most outstanding was that written by Prvislav Grizogono.
Grizogono was a Minister of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, a Croat, and a devout Catholic. Yet nothing could more eloquently indict his Church than his letter, the words of which were most carefully considered and scrupulously weighed:”
Your Grace: I write this to you as man to man, as a Christian to a Christian. Since the first day of the Independent Croatian State the Serbs have been massacred (in Gospich, Gudovac, Bos. Krajina, etc.) and this massacring has continued to this day.
He follows with a detailed enumeration of some of the crimes perpetrated. After which he concludes:”
Why do I write this to you? Here is why: In all these unprecedented crimes, worse than pagan our Catholic Church has also participated in two ways. First, a large number of priests, clerics, friars and organized Catholic youth actively participated in all these crimes, but more terrible even Catholic priests became camp and group commanders, and as such ordered or tolerated the horrible tortures, murders and massacres of a baptized people. None of this could have been done without the permission of their Bishops, and if it was done, they should have been brought to the Ecclesiastical Court and unfrocked. Since this did not happen, then ostensibly the Bishops gave their consent by acquiescence at least. The Catholic Church has used all means to Catholicize forcibly the remaining Serbs… The province of Stem is covered with the leaflets of Bishop Aksamovitch, printed in his own printing shop at Djakovo. He calls upon the Serbs, through these leaflets, to save their lives and property, recommending the Catholic faith to them.’ What will happen to us Croats if the impression is formed that we participated in all these crimes to the finish? Again it is the duty of the Church to raise its voice: first because it is a Church of Christ; second because it is powerful. I write to you this, about such terrible crimes, to save my soul, and I leave it to you to find a way to save yours.
Signed, Prvislav Grizogono, former Minister of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. At Zemun, February 8, 1941.
Not content with that, Dr. Grizogono dispatched another letter to the Catholic Archbishop of Belgrade, Dr. Ujchich, who seemed sympathetic to his request. In it the Catholic former Minister of Yugoslavia begged the Archbishop to ask the Pope to order the Catholic Hierarchy to stop the mounting Ustashi terror by the prompt enforcement of ecclesiastical discipline and, if necessary the use of papal authority. Did the Archbishop of Belgrade state that the persecutions were pure fabrications or, at least, were grossly exaggerated? The Archbishop denied nothing. In fact, by his reply he confirmed their authenticity. Indeed, he disclosed that he was fully conversant with what was then happening. Here is what he wrote to Dr. Grizogono:
I thank you for your letter. The information about the massacres we have already received from many different sources. I have forwarded everything to the Vatican, and I believe that everything possible will be done. 
The outcries of the civilized world echoed as vainly in the halls of the Catholic Hierarchy as in those of the Vatican. The saintly Pope and the worthy Archbishop were mute. Their silence cost the lives of 850,000 men, women and children, the bloodiest religious massacre of the century. Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum—Such evil deeds could religion inspire.
1. The Times, London, January 16, 1947, Law Report, January 15, 1947, High Court of Justice.
2. Terror over Yugoslavia, Watts, London, 1953.
3. The authenticity of his reply was personally confirmed by Dr. Grizogono’s son, Dr. N. Grizogono, a practicing Catholic. For further details, see Ally Betrayed, by David Martin, 1946. Archbishop Stepinac wrote to Pavelich about the conversions—More than once. See Mgr. Stepinac’s long letter to Pavelich on the conversions, first translated and published by Hubert Butler.