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Three NY Times articles about the rebirth of Croatian fascism
Comment -Telling some Truth, 7 Years Late
Thousands From Homes, Rights Group Says
2. Fascists Reborn as
Croatia's Founding Fathers
3. On My Mind; Back From the Grave
[Posted 11 August 2004]
To better understand the responses of
Serbs, Jews, 'Gypsies' (Roma) and others to events in Croatia in the
1990s, see the report prepared in 1947 by Yugoslavia's embassy in
Washington concerning the role of the Catholic Church in Croatia's
murder of hundreds of thousands during the war. It is posted with
By and large, the media has an abysmal record (not) reporting the facts about the Croatian secession from Yugoslavia and the renewed Croat war against Serbian civilians. There are a few partial exceptions. We've posted three of them below.
The first is a 1993 article by David Binder. Binder has been unique in that he has tended to buck the tide regarding Yugoslavia. Sometimes his stories were not published and we know that sometimes they have been edited, even reversing his intent, but he has covered events nobody else even tried to write about. While the general media line was that the Serbs were brutes and the Croatian secessionists were reincarnations of George Washington, Binder wrote the first article in our collection, actually discussing Croatian terror.
The second article is surprisingly sharp, correctly identifying Franjo Tudjman's 'nationalists' as a rebirth of the Ustashe clerical-fascists who ran Croatia during World War II. But look at the date: 1997! The fascist terror began in Croatia in 1990 or before. When Ivan Zvonimir Cicak told David Binder in 1993 (see the first article) that the fascists had dynamited 10,000 homes (!) he was making an accusation about *what had already happened.* Where was Chris Hedges in 1993? Where was the NY Times in 1990 and 1991?
By the time Hedges wrote about them in 1997 the fascists had driven the entire Serbian population - about 600,000 people - from Croatia and the neighboring Serbian Krajina. The chlorine smell was long gone from the roads in Western Slavonia: [f1]
Like the Chris Hedges article, A. M. Rosenthal's piece is good, as far as it goes, but again it's seven years late. Rosenthal asks:
That would have been an honest question in 1990. "[Will] the West....permit Croatian Fascism to live beyond the grave?" Is Mr. Rosenthal a sleep walker? In 1997 this "will" has the ring of hypocrisy.
Perhaps just as the (reborn!) Croatian Ustashe used chlorine to wash away the stench of their murders, so, after the Ustashe performed their assigned tasks, the Western media let a little truth through, in order to remove the stench of lies. Hence the articles by Hedges and Rosenthal. Maybe they wrote stories like these earlier but the Times wouldn't publish them until the Krajina Serbs were no more.
There are several statements in these articles with which we disagree, but for now we will only point to one. In the third article, A.M. Rosenthal writes:
Ambassador Galbraith's comments, if reported accurately, combine hypocrisy and an outright lie. We will explain why in an article on Galbraith which is preparation.
The three articles follow.
Jared Israel, Editor
The Government of Croatia has forced thousands of its enemies from their homes and from the country, according to the new Zagreb office of the human rights organization Helsinki Watch. [Note: The Times later posted a correction stating that Cicik “…is head of the Zagreb-based Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights; he does not represent Helsinki Watch."]
The actions have been directed mostly against Serbs, who once constituted a sizable minority in Croatia, but also against Croats opposed to the rule of President Franjo Tudjman, said Ivan Zvonimir Cicak, who heads Helsinki Watch of Croatia.
"Since 1991, the Croatian authorities have blown up or razed 10,000 houses, mostly of Serbs, but also houses of Croats," Mr. Cicak, who is cataloguing the abuses, said in an interview. "In some cases they dynamited homes with the families inside. Whole families were killed. Many were wounded."
Mr. Cicak has not released any formal report of his findings, but he says he brings complaints to the attention of the authorities, usually to little avail.
The Government has taken little action in response to his complaints, but has addressed them indirectly, either with articles in the Government-controlled newspapers or on television. In the cases of the dynamitings of homes, both Foreign Minister Mate Granic and Prime Minister Nikica Valentic have spoken of "unacceptable behavior" by Croats destroying homes of Serbs.
Mr. Cicak said one of the Croats who lost his home was Ante Semjar, "a writer who is a member of the PEN club." He added: "He had a big house on the island of Pag. They blew it up because he had criticized the regime."
In September a building in the coastal city of Split where Croatian dissidents planned to publish an independent newspaper called Dalmatinska Novine was destroyed "with 100 kilograms of dynamite," Mr. Cicak said.
He said the Tudjman Government, in a statement by Foreign Minister Mate Granic in May, had acknowledged the destruction of "7,000 houses" of Croatian Serbs. So far, the justice authorities have investigated about 100 cases of dynamiting, "but there have been no prosecutions," he said.
Altogether about 280,000 Croatian Serbs have fled the country as a result of the dynamite campaign and other measures. Of Zagreb's prewar population of 60,000 ethnic Serbs, about 20,000 are left, he said. Croatia's total population before the war was about 5 million.
Mr. Cicak said his organization, which occupies a small office with a computer and a fax machine on the top floor of Journalists' House here, "can do nothing" about the houses.
Copyright 1993 The New York Times
The New York Times, April 12, 1997, Saturday, Late
Edition - Final, Section 1; Page 3; Column 1; Foreign Desk , 1222
words, Fascists Reborn as Croatia's Founding Fathers, By Chris
Hedges, Split, Croatia, April 10
The old fascist marching songs were sung, a moment of silence was observed for all who died defending the fatherland, and the gathering was reminded that today was the 57th anniversary of the founding of Croatia's Nazi-allied wartime government. Then came the most chilling words of the afternoon.
"For Home!" shouted Anto Dapic, surrounded by bodyguards in black suits and crew cuts.
"Ready!" responded the crowd of 500 supporters, their arms rising in a stiff Nazi salute.
The call and response -- the Croatian equivalent of "Sieg!" "Heil!" -- was the wartime greeting used by supporters of the fascist Independent State of Croatia, which governed the country for most the Second World War and murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews, Serbs and Croatian resistance fighters.
Today, in the final day of campaigning before local elections on Sunday, supporters of Croatia's Party of Rights used the chant as a rallying cry. But the shouts of the black-shirted young men -- and the indifferent reactions of passersby -- illustrated a broader aspect of this country's self-image.
President Franjo Tudjman and his Croatian Democratic Union party rose to popularity and power on the strength of its appeals to Croatians' national pride. Now, six years after the war that won Croatia its independence from Yugoslavia, Mr. Tudjman's party continues to cast the World War II fascist fighters as patriots and precursors of the modern Croatian state.
The Party of Rights took only 7 percent of the vote in the last election, but it is the closest ally of Mr. Tudjman, who is reported to be suffering from cancer but who has still campaigned actively.
Perhaps no other country has failed as openly as Croatia to come to terms with its fascist legacy. While the French celebrate a resistance movement that was often dwarfed by the widespread collaboration with the Vichy regime, and while the Austrians often act as if the war never happened, the Croats have rehabilitated the Croatian fascist collaborators, known as the Ustashe.
The Ustashe was led by Ante Pavelic, the wartime dictator whose picture was plastered on walls in Split in preparation for the rally.
"A majority of the Croats oppose this rehabilitation," said Viktor Ivancic, editor in chief of the opposition weekly, The Feral Tribune. "But they are afraid. These neo-fascist groups, protected by the state, are ready to employ violence against their critics."
Ustashe veterans receive larger pensions than old Partisan fighters, who waged a savage fight against the German and Croatian fascist armies. Former Ustashe soldiers are invited to state celebrations, like the annual army day, while Partisan fighters are ignored. And state authorities have stood by as pro-Ustashe groups have dismantled or destroyed 2,964 of 4,073 monuments to those who died in the resistance struggle, according to veteran Partisan groups.
The identification with the quisling regime does not stop there. The Croatian currency is the kuna, the same instituted by the fascists. And the red and white checkerboard on the flag, taken from medieval Croatian emblems, previously adorned the Ustashe uniform. The President recently proposed bringing Mr. Pavelic's remains from Spain, where he died in exile in 1959, for burial in Croatia, a move rejected by Mr. Pavelic's family. And Vinko Nikolic, an 85-year-old former high-ranking Ustashe official who fled into exile after the war, was appointed by the President to the Croatian Parliament.
The transformation is all the more noticeable because of widespread participation by many Croats in the Partisan guerrilla movement led by Josip Broz Tito, himself a Croat.
"A huge number of Croats fought the Nazis and the Ustashe," said 77-year-Partisan veteran Milivoj Borosa, who defected in his bomber in 1942 from the Ustashe air force and dropped his payload on a German unit during his escape to the Soviet Union. "But today, those who should hold their heads in shame, are national heroes."
The Partisans, who included among their ranks the young Franjo Tudjman, committed what today is viewed as an unforgivable sin. They built a united, Communist Yugoslavia. And while the Ustashe state may have been a Nazi puppet, it had as its stated aim the establishment of an independent Croatia, although it was forced by the Axis to turn over large parts of Croatia, including much of the Dalmatian coast, to the Italians.
In the current campaign, President Tudjman sought to reconcile the country's wartime divisions by arguing that the fascist and anti-fascist Croatians performed equally valuable service for their country. A general who became a historian after leaving the Yugoslav Army, Mr. Tudjman is among the leaders of a revisionist school of history that has sought to counterbalance the Communists' relentlessly dark view of the fascist years.
But many Croats, especially those who had relatives killed by the fascists, smolder with indignation over the glorification of a regime that massacred opponents with a ferocity that often shocked its Italian and German allies.
"You cannot reconcile victims and butchers," said Ognjen Kraus, the head of Zagreb's small Jewish community. "No one has the right to carry out a reconciliation in the name of those who vanished."
The climate has become so charged that those who oppose the rehabilitation of the Ustashe do not dare raise their voices. And there have been several attacks carried out against members of the Social Democratic Party, the old Communist party, currently fielding candidates for the municipal elections. Many of the black-uniformed bodyguards at the rally here fought against the Serbs as members of The Croatian Liberation Forces, a brutal right-wing paramilitary unit formed by the party.
The Ustashe supporters also have a powerful ally in the Catholic Church in Croatia. The church, led during the war by Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac, was a prominent backer of the Ustashe regime. It forcibly converted tens of thousands of Orthodox Serbs and did not denounce the government's roundup and massacre of Jews and Serbs.
During the war, Jews and Orthodox Serbs were subject to racial laws. The Serbs had to wear blue arm bands with the letter "P" for "Pravoslav" -- Orthodox -- before being deported to death camps like Jasenovac.
After the war, many priests, rather than condemn the brutality of the fascist regime, went on to set up an underground network know as "the rat line" to smuggle former Ustashe leaders, including Mr. Pavelic, to countries like Argentina.
The church, persecuted by the Communists, has now re-emerged as one of the most powerful institutions in the country, in large part because religion is the only tangible difference separating Serbs, Muslims and Croats. Several priests have enthusiastically joined the rehabilitation campaign, portraying Mr. Pavelic as a pious leader who championed Christian values.
"Ante Pavelic was a good Catholic," said Father Luka Prcela, who has held a memorial Mass for the former dictator in Split for the last four years. "He went to mass daily in his own chapel. Many of the crimes alleged to have been committed by his Government never happened. These stories were lies spread by the communists. He fought for a free, Catholic Croatia. We have this state today because of him."
Copyright 1997 The New York Times
In World War II, Hitler had no executioners more willing, no ally
more passionate, than the Fascists of Croatia.
Copyright 1993 The New York Times
[Footnotes and Further Reading follows the fundraising appeal]
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Footnotes and Further Reading
[f1] The Washington Post, May 08, 1995, Monday, Final Edition, A SECTION; Pg. A18, 762 words, U.N. Investigates Killing Of Civilians in Croatia; Serb Refugees Were Fleeing Army Attack, John Pomfret, Washington Post Foreign Service, NOVI VAROS, Croatia, May 7
[f2] To read more
Emperor's Clothes articles on Yugoslavia go to
[f3] The Yugoslav
report on the role of the Catholic Church in Nazi Croatia can be read,
with photographs, at
It can also be downloaded as a word file,
without photos, suitable for printing for classroom use, etc. Go
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