What Is The Vatican Hiding?
The Vatican's Complicity in Genocide in
Fascist Croatia: The Suppressed Chapter of Holocaust History.
by Barry Lituchy
Fourteen years ago the U.S. Government de-classified the now
famous "La Vista Report" of May 15, 1947, a top-secret U.S.
Army Intelligence report documenting the Vatican's role in aiding the
escape of numerous high-ranking Nazi war criminals, among them Ante Pavelic,
fascist leader of wartime Croatia; Franz Stangel, Commander of Treblinka;
Eduard Roschmann, "the Butcher of Riga"; Klaus Barbie, "the
Butcher of Lyon"; SS General Walter Rauff, inventor of the mobile
gas truck; Adolf Eichmann, "architect of the Holocaust"; and
tens of thousands of others. Writing about the document prior to its release,
internationally renowned Nazi hunter Charles R. Allen Jr. noted that in
light of the revelations contained in this and other classified documents
about the role of the Vatican in the Holocaust it would be logical and
proper that a commission of inquiry into these concerns including Jewish
and Catholic scholars ought to be established to locate and examine all
documentation in all relevant archives so that collectively they may determine
what role both the Vatican and US Intelligence played in aiding and abetting
the escape of some of history's most notorious murderers. (1)
Logical, that is, if one assumed that the Vatican truly wanted
to get to the bottom of what really happened, and maybe even try to atone
for some of the injustices it committed. But fourteen years after the
fact, with the release of the Vatican's official statement on "the
mistakes" of the Catholic Church during the Holocaust, we now can
see how overly optimistic that assumption was. The "La Vista Report"
was documentary evidence that opened a window on a suppressed chapter
of the Holocaust: the role of the Vatican in the Holocaust. The Vatican's
report "We Remember, a Reflection on the Shoah (Holocaust),"
issued this past March makes it abundantly clear that the Catholic Church
is determined to do all that it can to shut that window as tightly as
it can, and to keep it shut forever. Forget the idea of a commission-the
Vatican has no intention of opening its archives or admitting anything
other than "...the errors and failures of those sons and daughters
of the Church" who did not "give every possible assistance to
those being persecuted, and in particular ... Jews."
Far from suggesting that the Vatican did anything wrong, the
document instead tries to portray the role of the Church during the Holocaust
in a mostly positive light, insisting that "many" members of
the Church did "give every possible assistance"-implying that
those who didn't were a minority, and going on to claim that the Vatican
categorically condemned and opposed fascism and Nazism, making reference
to pronouncements that at best are equivocal. It also claims that "Jewish
communities and Jewish leaders expressed their thanks for all that had
been done for them...," a cynical manipulation of a half-truth if
there ever was one. And to top it all off the document tries to argue
that fascism and genocide were incompatible with Catholic teachings: "...the
work of a thoroughly neo-pagan regime. Its anti-Semitism had its roots
outside of Christianity...." (2) Certainly, this was not the view
of the tens of thousands of Catholic clergy all around the world who warmly
embraced fascism and joined its ranks from Berlin to Detroit (Have they
forgotten our own "dear" Father Coughlin?).
What all of this amounts to is a staggering lie of gigantic proportions,
a total whitewash of the crimes committed by the Catholic Church and the
Papacy before, during and after the Holocaust. It is worthwhile that we
now review some of the media response to this deliberate falsification
of history before we examine some of the facts this most recent Vatican
document conveniently "forgot" to mention.
The Vatican document is the result of a sophisticated public
relations campaign aimed at improving its image with both Jews and the
American public by shirking responsibility for its crimes before, during
and after the Holocaust while pinning all of the blame on others. This
necessarily involves a deliberate falsification and suppression of the
historical record. The New York Times was correct when it predicted that
the document would try to put as much distance between itself and the
Holocaust as possible. Even anti-Semitism is portrayed as the result of
"wrong-headed Christian thinkers," not the papacy or its clergy.(3)
As one CNN reporter put it, "the Pope has steered clear of blaming
the church itself."(4)
Thus, the Vatican's "memory" is highly selective. The
"errors" the Vatican is willing to recall are limited only to
those of omission, not commission. In other words, the errors of the Church
during the Holocaust are defined only as the silence or indifference of
the Church in the face of crimes of genocide, a failure to speak out.
The Vatican-and apparently many journalists-would like us to believe that
this is the limit of wrongdoing. Defined out of the discussion are complicity
in or support for these crimes-not to mention active participation in
deportations, expropriations, forced conversions, and mass murder of a
specific people, that is to say, genocide itself. As long as the role
of the Vatican in the Holocaust is defined in this way, it safely avoids
serious examination of the much worse crimes it did commit.
We shall return to these matters presently. First, some credit
should be paid to those who have openly criticized the Vatican for its
mendacity. To its credit CNN presented an interview with Israel's Chef
Rabbi, Meir Lau, who was forthright in his condemnation of this atrociously
retrograde document and who focused attention on the actual historical
role of Pope Pius XII, whom he called "an accomplice to Nazi murderers."(5)
There are many good reasons for this designation: Pius XII's (then Eugenio
Pacelli) efforts as Papal Nuncio in Germany were central to bringing Germany's
Catholic Center Party close to Nazism in the 1920's, and then to cementing
the agreement between the Vatican and Hitler known as the Concordat of
1933. Pacelli's support for Hitlerism in its early stages is historical
record, and preventing the disclosure of the full scope of this support
is one of the reasons the Vatican will not open its archives from this
Indeed, Pius XII brings us to the real heart of the matter, and
Pope John Paul II's response to the question of the wartime Pope's culpability
reveals the real design behind the Vatican's report. John Paul II has
consistently defended Pius XII, often in a truculent manner. The current
Pope has made it clear that he will do his part to uphold the doctrine
of Papal infallibility. One of his speeches during a trip to Germany in
1995 even contained a passage attacking all criticisms of Pius XII as
"cheap polemics."(6) This kind of attack is part of a pre-emptive
strategy aimed at creating an unreceptive climate for scholarship or discussion
dealing with the role of the Vatican. Once again the Church finds itself
fighting to prove that the world is flat.
But more importantly it exposes the motives behind this recent
report, which shares certain similarities with some interpretations of
the Holocaust. By placing blame on wrong-headed individuals in the Church
and denying any wrong doing by the Pope or Vatican, the Church is shifting
responsibility from its leaders and from the institution itself to the
rank and file followers, in effect side stepping all blame whatsoever.
Thus, the Church really is completely innocent-it's the sheep, not the
shepherd who are responsible! The similarities with the manner in which
the ruling elites in Germany prefer to interpret the Holocaust are quite
striking. In Germany, authors like Daniel Goldhagen are all the rage because
books like Hitler's Willing Executioners blur responsibility for the rise
of Nazism by taking the focus off of the capitalist and aristocratic elites
and institutions who backed Hitler (many of which were left unscathed
by the so-called de-Nazification of post-war Germany) and putting it on
the popular culture and working masses instead. Not having their own Goldhagen
to rely on, the Catholic Church has to hustle this cheap shell game itself.
The Vatican's Role: A Suppressed Chapter of
If we consider for a moment the manner in which the phenomenon
of genocide has been treated in the twentieth century by both historians
and governments, in general we can say that it often has been cynically
exploited for political purposes. When it suited the Western powers, they
criticized the genocide of Armenians by Turkey in World War I. But after
Turkey became a bulwark against the Soviet Union and a military ally,
this chapter of twentieth century history was suppressed-and largely remains
so to this day. Most historians in this country are still unwilling to
consider the mass extermination of Native American peoples or the deaths
of millions of Africans during slavery as acts of genocide, legally sanctioned
by this country. At the U.S. Holocaust Museum the history of the Holocaust
has been tailored to fit the political fashions of the Clinton administration
and the New World Order: hence, one finds the words "Serbs"
and "Russians" are altogether absent from the official record
of the Holocaust, and instead are replaced in the most obscene Orwellian
manner by the words "Yugoslavs" and "Soviets." A most
vicious and ironic cover up, considering that the U.S. today does not
even recognize the existence of these states or peoples. In all of these
cases we see instances of the suppression of the history of genocide against
certain peoples for clearly political purposes (not least of which is
the desire to target these same peoples for future destruction). The role
of the U.S. and British governments in protecting and employing Nazi and
fascist mass murderers will also probably not be fully disclosed or incorporated
into history books in our lifetimes.
But nowhere has the truth been hijacked and suppressed more than
in regard to that one chapter of the Holocaust that historians still hesitate
to confront: the Vatican's role in fascist Croatia. The story of the Holocaust
in wartime Croatia is absent from many scholarly discussions of the Holocaust
and from most Holocaust museums in this country. It is an odd omission
considering the fact that if one defines the Holocaust from the first
mass murders of civilians, then the Holocaust itself began in Croatia
with the first murders of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies by the Croatian fascist
regime in April 1941 -- some nine months before the Wannsee Conference,
more than two months before the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. It
is like a book whose first chapter is torn out.
What then are the political reasons for the systematic and deliberate
suppression of the history of the Holocaust in Croatia? There are several,
and they are all connected to vital geo-political considerations of the
leading Western powers. One is the leading role that Croatian fascist
war criminals played in establishing the "ratline" escape routes
of European fascism after the war and their enormous contributions to
U.S. and British intelligence agencies during the Cold War. Another was
the American and British governments' refusal to return for trial and
punishment to post-war Yugoslavia Croatian war criminals in particular,
thus violating the Moscow Declaration of 1943 in which they had sworn
to do so. Still another was the long range goal of U.S. and Western imperialism
to partition and destroy Communist Yugoslavia, a plan which depended on
the support of the thousands of escaped Croatian fascists subsidized by
the U.S. for decades in anticipation of this long sought goal.(7) The
need to suppress such information from the public and from political discourse
is obvious: a self-proclaimed moral superiority based on genocide is a
fraud the whole world can see.
But all of these justifications pale in comparison to the importance
placed on suppressing the truth about the Vatican's and the Catholic Church's
role in the Holocaust in fascist Croatia. For in Croatia, the question
of what role the Catholic Church played in the Holocaust is not limited
to the relatively minor issues of whether they did or spoke out enough
against it-here the question concerns the role of the Church and the Vatican
in running concentration camps and in carrying out a religiously inspired
genocide. Nowhere is the role of the Vatican more worthy of investigation,
and nowhere has that role received less attention.
Vatican Sponsorship of Fascism
To understand the Vatican's role and motives in the Holocaust
in Yugoslavia we need to understand the phenomenon of genocide as a product
of modern imperialism. Genocide is a direct consequence of imperialist
wars of conquest aimed at territorial expansion for economic, political
and military domination. After World War I the Vatican was determined,
like its fascist partners of Italy and Germany, to destroy the Yugoslav
state and reconstitute in that region the power and influence the Papacy
had lost with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
The Yugoslav state emerged out of the century long struggle of
the peoples of the Balkans to overcome colonial oppression. The idea of
a federation of Balkan peoples had its roots in the struggles against
first Turkish and then Austrian-German and other Western domination. It
was born of the realism of Balkan political leaders in the nineteenth
century that small nations by themselves cannot defend themselves against
the great imperialist powers, but that together they might be able to
do so. It was this ideal that Yugoslavia in a truncated form represented,
and that German and Italian fascism were determined to annihilate.(8)
The Vatican was also determined to destroy Yugoslavia, though
for its own reasons. The dismemberment of the Catholic Austro-Hungarian
Empire was a catastrophe for the Catholic Church. The Vatican was no longer
the supreme religious authority in Central and Eastern Europe and had
lost the state foundations on which citizens owed a dual allegiance to
Church and state. Its disappearance marked a sharp decline in the Church's
world power and influence. Worse still was the replacement of the Austro-Hungarian
Empire with states dominated by other religions in which Catholics sank
to a minority status. The worst of the bunch was Yugoslavia which was
ruled by a King of the Serbian Eastern Orthodox faith, a church that the
Vatican viewed as a "schismatic sect." From the Vatican's point
of view, this schismatic-sect was a cancer, to be eliminated.
The Vatican had done all it could to support the Austrian and
German war effort in 1914 against Serbia and considered Serbia as the
"evil" behind the war. In his report of July 29, 1914 to the
Austrian Foreign Minister Berchtold, the Austrian charge d'affairs to
the Vatican, Count Palffy reported the views of the Vatican Secretary
of State, Cardinal Marry del Val, who, speaking on behalf of then Pope
Pius X ...expressed the hope that the monarchy would go through to the
end... [and] the opinion that it is a pity that Serbia wasn't made smaller
much earlier.... The Pope and the Curia see Serbia as a destructive disease
which is slowly eating away at the Monarchy to its very essence and which
will eventually destroy it.... Austria is and remains a Catholic state
par excellence, the strongest bulwark of Christ's Church in this century.
The demolition of this bulwark would mean for the Church the loss of its
firmest support. It would lose its strongest defender. Therefore, for
this reason, just as it is necessary for Austria, for the sake of its
self-preservation to get its organism rid, if necessary by force, of the
evil which is eating away at it, so it is indirectly necessary for the
Church to do everything that could serve this purpose.(9)
In August 1914 the Vatican encouraged its clergy to rally the
Catholic populations of Croatia and Slovenia to fight Serbia, portraying
the conflict as a holy war against the very "enemy of Jesus,"
i.e.: the Serbs. The Bishop of Ljubljana, Anton Jeglich, called on the
Slovenian soldiers...to take arms and defend Catholic Austria and our
Catholic imperial family from the sworn enemy of Jesus himself....let
us fight the enemies of God, against the enemies of Catholic Austria,
against the enemies of the Catholic Habsburg house."(10)
Combined with the Catholic fanaticism encouraged by the Vatican
was the extreme racial violence expressed toward the Serbs throughout
Austria-Hungary and summed up in the popular jingle of August 1914: "Alle
Serben mussen sterben!"(11) This blending of Catholic fanaticism
and racial violence toward the Serbs born in the last days of the Habsburg
Empire and sponsored by the Vatican prefigured the later emergence of
Croatian fascism. Indeed, in World War I, one out of every four male Serbs
would be killed-a dress rehearsal, one might say, for the greater genocide
Having lost its "strongest bulwark" with the end of
the first World War, the Vatican turned to Mussolini and fascist Italy
to defend it and its long range goals. Likewise, the Vatican threw its
support behind Mussolini's imperialist ambitions for fascist Italy. The
aims of the two Italian dictatorships were quite similar. Both were implacable
enemies of the Yugoslav state seeking its destruction: the Pope wished
to carve out a Catholic majority state from its northern half; Mussolini
sought to annex parts of Slovenia, the Dalmatian coast, and Montenegro,
along with Albania and Kosovo, so that he might "turn the Adriatic
into an Italian lake."
The origins of fascism in the Balkans can be traced directly
back to Mussolini and the imperialist ambitions of fascist Italy, as well
as to the generous support provided to them by the Catholic Church in
Croatia. It was Mussolini's fascist state that originally financed and
sponsored nationalist extremist political movements in the Balkans, transforming
them ideologically and organizationally into full blown genocidal, fascist
parties. According to the diary of Mussolini's foreign minister Ciano,
the Italian government financed Croatian fascism at the level of around
25 million lire a year in the 1920's and 1930's.(12) By 1934 Italy's investments
in Croatian fascism paid handsome dividends when on October 9th
King Alexander of Yugoslavia was assassinated by Croatian fascists in
Marseilles, France along with the French Foreign Minister Barthou, both
of them obstacles to the fascist domination of Europe.
The Vatican was kept apprised of fascist strategic planning in
both Rome and Berlin through the 1930's right up to the invasion of Yugoslavia.
In May 1940 the Archbishop of Zagreb, Aloysius Stepinac, was called to
the Vatican for briefings on the future invasion and partition of Yugoslavia.(13)
In the years immediately preceding the German and Italian invasion of
Yugoslavia of April 1941, the head of the Catholic Church in Yugoslavia,
Stepinac, met regularly with representatives from both the Italian foreign
ministry and the illegal Ustasha terrorist organization, as Stepinac himself
noted in his diary.(14) Among these visitors was the future Ustasha Minister
of Education Mile Budak, a chief architect of the genocide in Croatia,
who is best known for his infamous speech on the final solution for the
Serbs: "We will kill a third, expel a third, and convert a third."(15)
The three nationalist movements that Italian fascism took under
its wing were the Croatian, Albanian and Macedonian nationalist movements.
The only one of these three that would graduate under Italian (later also
German) fascist tutelage and financing, from a loose terrorist organization
into a fully mature fascist movement was the Croatian Ustasha. Its success
in becoming the largest and most mature of these fascist movements was
in large part due to the considerable institutional support the Catholic
Church in Croatia could provide-a factor altogether absent in the Albanian
and Macedonian cases.
The leadership of the Church was well aware of the leading role
it was expected to play in the soon to be independent, fascist Croatian
state. In the years prior to 1941 the Croatian fascist movement recruited
members of legal Croatian nationalist parties and from within the Yugoslav
military with the help and encouragement of the Croatian Catholic Church.
Not only did the Croatian Catholic clergy meet secretly in the years prior
to 1941 with Italian fascist agents to help prepare for the final destruction
of Yugoslavia, but they provided the Ustasha with all of the vast resources
at its disposal, including its buildings and monasteries for meetings
and safe-houses. The operational headquarters in which the plans for the
Ustasha take-over were made was in the Franciscan monastery at Chuntich.
Monasteries, parish houses, cathedrals, Franciscan high schools, seminaries,
etc., throughout Croatia doubled as meeting places, recruiting centers,
arms depots and staging areas for Croatian fascism and terror in the years
prior to the war. We know this to be true because the Croatian fascists
themselves boasted of it when they came to power in 1941 in their official
publications and on the memorial plaques they affixed to these places.(16)
If the Vatican criticized Nazi Germany in the last half of the
1930's, it had less to do with fascism than with Hitler's imperialist
conflicts with Mussolini over the fate of Central Europe. The Vatican's
interests were more in line with those of Mussolini's: a "Pan-Danubian"
confederation of Catholic states centered around Austria and Hungary as
the core of a restored Catholic empire.(17) The Ustashi too favored a
reconstitution of the old Habsburg empire following the destruction of
Yugoslavia. But by the time Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, Mussolini
had to face facts and reach a tacit agreement with Hitler over who would
call the shots. Moreover, the Munich agreement in the fall of 1938 signaling
the end of Czechoslovakia, and Hitler's creation of the clerical-fascist
puppet state of Slovakia several months later, proved to Croatian fascists
(if they had any doubts by then) that Hitler was their real fuhrer, not
Mussolini. Hitler had wanted to put off the destruction of Yugoslavia
until after Britain and the Soviet Union were defeated. But Mussolini's
mucked up invasion of Greece forced the issue, much to the delight of
the Croatian fascists-and the Catholic Church in Croatia.
It is assumed that Pius XII would have preferred Mussolini's
leadership in Central Europe to Hitler's. But Hitler's creation of two
semi-independent clerical fascist states out of the remnants of Czechoslovakia
and Yugoslavia certainly showed a great deal of consideration for the
Vatican's interests as an ally. Besides, the Vatican recognized that of
the three major alternatives for Central Europe, Nazi Germany may have
been a less desirable arbiter than Fascist Italy, but still a whole lot
better than Soviet Russia. And in the end, faced with larger problems,
Hitler granted the Italian and Croatian fascists and the Vatican most
of what they wanted anyway.(18)
Why did Hitler create two independent clerical-fascist states
which considered themselves vassals of the papacy? The answer to this
question explains why historians hardly ever mention Slovakia and Croatia
in their discussions of World War II or the Holocaust: because the Vatican
was a silent partner in the Axis alliance, as well as in the Holocaust.
The Vatican's Holocaust
The Croatian Catholic Church and the Vatican were directly involved
in helping the fascist regime in Croatia carry out a triple genocide against
Serbs, Jews and Romas from 1941 to 1945 in every possible way. By the
time they were done, they had killed one million people. The Catholic
Church assisted the Croatian fascists in every aspect of their murderous
rule, from open political and financial support, to serving in their military
units in every phase of the war, to serving in their government, to participating
in arrests, expropriations, deportations, forced conversions and mass
murders of racially persecuted peoples. Catholic Priests even served as
concentration camp commanders in some of the worst death camps of World
War II. And it was all done with the full knowledge and support of Pope
Pius XII and the Vatican.(19)
On April 10, 1941 the Independent State of Croatia was declared
by Ustashi arriving in Zagreb with Nazi troops during the Nazi's invasion
and dismemberment of Yugoslavia which began on April 6 and continued until
the surrender of the Yugoslav government on April 17. While 30,000 were
killed by the Luftwaffe in the bombing of Belgrade, Zagreb and Croatia
were left untouched and the Nazis were greeted like heroes in the streets
of Zagreb. Once again much of the responsibility for preparing public
support for Nazism in Croatia lies with the Catholic Church, which had
published articles in its publications as early as 1939 calling for an
independent Croatia. In 1940 an article appeared in the official Church
publication "Catholic List" praising Mein Kampf and adding that
there was no conflict between being a good Catholic and a good Nazi.(20)
Indeed, similar articles were published by innumerable Catholic clergy
all over Europe in the 1930's and 1940's. Urged on by the Catholic clergy,
thousands of Croatian officers and soldiers in the Yugoslav army deserted
to the Nazi-Ustasha side as did a large part of the membership of the
popular Croatian Peasant Party.
While the Ustashi rode to power on the backs of the Nazi Wehrmacht,
units of Ustasha soldiers fought alongside them. Among the very first
armed divisions of the Ustasha army were numerous Catholic priests. The
military exploits of one priest, Ilija Tomas of Klepac, were hailed in
the Croatian fascist publication "Hrvatski Narod" on July 25,
1941.(21) Another Catholic publication "Nedelja" praised the
military exploits of dozens of priests, especially those in monastic orders
such as the Franciscan Radovan Glavas, and the priest Ivan Miletic who
led Croatian fascists in joint battle with Wehrmacht forces.(22) Priests
who led Catholic organizations in Croatia and Bosnia such as the "Crusaders
Brotherhood" and "Catholic Action," which had tens of thousands
of members, established military units within them and were used as recruiting
centers for the Ustasha military.(23) These are not unique examples. The
entire Catholic press in this period in Croatia was thoroughly pro-fascist,
racist and supportive of the elimination of the "minorities."
The leader of the Catholic Church in Croatia, Archbishop Stepinac,
fervently supported the Ustasha movement and welcomed the invading Nazi
army as it entered Zagreb. On April 11th he met with Ustasha
leaders and on April 12th he blessed the newly arrived Ustasha
leadership in a public ceremony at his cathedral. In his Easter address
of that month he compared the creation of the new fascist state to the
resurrection of Christ. In his pastoral letter of April 28th
he ordered the clergy and called upon all Catholic people of Croatia and
Bosnia to follow their "Poglavnik" (Fuhrer) Ante Pavelic, for
he had seen in Pavelic's rule "God's hand in action."(24) The
pastoral letter was read over the radio and in every Catholic parish in
Stepinac met with the Croatian Fuhrer when he arrived from Italy
on April 16th. That evening Stepinac held a dinner party in
his residence in honor of Pavelic and the Ustasha leadership. In his diary,
Stepinac described the day and admitted that Pavelic told him of his plans
to "exterminate" the non-Catholic religions in Croatia. Stepinac's
diary indicates that he too was prepared for an all out religious war,
for he added that "If that man (Pavelic) rules Croatia for ten years...Croatia
will be a paradise on earth."(25)
There is no question that Stepinac knew of the Ustasha's plans
for committing genocide even before they came to power. After Stepinac's
death in 1960, Ilija Jukic, a leading member of the Croatian Peasant Party,
wrote of how he had told Stepinac in March 1941 that the Pavelic-Budak
group "were thinking of applying Hitler's methods to the Serbs in
Croatia if they ever came to power." Stepinac disingenuously told
Jukic that he would look into it.(26) But Stepinac already was resolved
on an attitude of passive acceptance of genocide, as is revealed from
entries in his diary, such as one from 1940 when he wrote: "... the
Serbs have not learned anything... and in the end they will lose everything....
I wish them no evil because they are God's children. But if nothing can
teach them a lesson, distress will."(27)
Of course, Stepinac was easily outdone in fascist criminality
by other high ranking clergy, most infamously by the second highest ranking
cleric in fascist Croatia, the Archbishop of Sarajevo, Ivan Sharich-called
"the Hangman of Serbs" by his fellow Ustashi. Sharich had been
a secret member of the Ustasha since 1934, and had been in close contact
with them at least since 1931. Whereas Stepinac was willing to spare the
lives of some Jews and Serbs who had converted to Catholicism, Sharich
ridiculed those who did not have the stomach for total genocide, declaring
it "stupid and unworthy of Christ's disciples to think that the struggle
against evil could be waged in a noble way and with gloves on." Among
Vatican documents that have emerged is one dealing with Sharich's personal
expropriations of property belonging to Jews in Bosnia(28)
Since the Ustasha wished Croatia to be a vassal of the papacy,
Catholic clergy held high positions at every level of the fascist government.
In the majority of towns and villages throughout the newly created fascist
state, Catholic clergy became the official Ustasha authority. A certain
number of seats in the fascist "Sabor" were reserved for Bishops
including Stepinac and Sharich. Pavelic included several priest-advisors
and a personal confessor in his cabinet. In its inaugural radio address
to the nation on April 11, 1941, the new fascist government instructed
the population to apply to their local priest for further instructions,
indicating again that the fascist take-over was planned in advance with
the complete knowledge of the Church hierarchy. (29) When Pavelic fled
the country in 1945 he turned over the reigns of state leadership to Stepinac.
Thus, it truly was a clerical-fascist state in praxis as well as theory.
In its ideology, Croatian fascism combined extreme Roman Catholic
fanaticism, Nazi eugenics and Croatian chauvinism, creating perhaps the
most psychotic political movement of all time. Pavelic was obsessed with
Croatia's racial purity on both biological and religious grounds. The
Ustashi claimed that the Croats were not Slavs but rather of the "Aryan
race," descendants of the Germanic Goths. However, unlike the Nazis,
the Ustashi's leading racist theorists were Catholic clergy, like Dr.
Ivo Guberina, a priest and leading Ustasha emigre, whose writings reconciling
religious purification with racial hygiene lent a spurious scientific
veneer to Ustasha propaganda.(30) Croatia had to be purified of its "foreign
elements," namely Serbs, Jews and Romas. Purification for the Ustashi
always meant extermination; they never hid their desire to commit genocide.
In the 1930's they were already known for songs with verses like: "We
shall hang Serbs on the willows" ("Serbe o verbe"), and
"We shall tear their children out of their womb."(31)
The Italian and German fascists were astonished by the speed
with which the Ustashi initiated their systematic policy of genocide.
Already on April 18, 1941 the very first racial law, on "the Aryanization
of Jewish property" was issued. Other racial laws of the Independent
State of Croatia promulgated in April 1941 included laws ordering Serbs
to wear blue bands on their sleeves with the letter "P" (for
Orthodox) and Jews a band with the Star of David and the letter "Z"
(for Jew), along with laws forbidding Serbs and Jews to walk on sidewalks
and ordering the posting of signs in public places stating "No Serbs,
Jews, Gypsies or Dogs Allowed!" In May 1941 laws carefully defining
Serbs, Jews and Romas (as well as anti-fascist Croats) as "undesirable
peoples" directed what was to be done with them: their rounding up,
the dispossession of their property, and their deportation to death camps.
Laws on the rounding up, dispossessing and deportation of the families
of undesirables as well, including children, were issued later that same
month. Racial laws regulating all aspects of society continued to be issued
in the weeks and months to follow. Bound volumes of these published laws
are available in the European Law Division of the Library of Congress.
The so-called Ustasha Minister of Education, Dr. Mile Budak,
summarized the racial policy of Croatia in a speech on July 22, 1941 in
Gospic when he said:
The movement of the Ustashi is based on religion. For the minorities-Serbs,
Jews and Gypsies, we have three million bullets. We shall kill one part
of the Serbs. We shall deport another, and the rest of them will be forced
to embrace the Roman Catholic religion. Thus, our new Croatia will get
rid of all Serbs in our midst in order to become one hundred percent Catholic
within ten years.32 Meanwhile the foreign minister of fascist Croatia,
Mladen Lorkovic, sent instructions to his diplomats and to the world:
"... the Croatian people annihilate all foreign elements, which weaken
its powers; those foreign elements are the Serbs and the Jews."(33)
How committed was the Catholic Church in Croatia to this ideology
and its racial laws? As has been mentioned already, priests were among
the intellectual godfathers of Croatian fascism and racism. Whereas anti-Serbian
racism had roots deeply connected to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, anti-Semitism
in Yugoslavia was almost entirely the product of Catholic propaganda after
World War I. Official church publications in Croatia like Catholic List
frequently published condemnations of Jews during the 1930's as being
the source of communism, free-masonry, abortions and immorality.(34) It
should not be surprising therefore that the man appointed to be President
of Ustasha Central Propaganda Office (equivalent to the position held
by Goebbels in Germany) was none other a priest, Father Grga Peinovic.
To claim that the Catholic Church simply adapted to the fascist regime
would be a whitewash of their long-standing promotion of racism. They
were the very leaders responsible for articulating this ideology to the
people and for the regime itself.
But there were considerable obstacles blocking the creation a
pure Croat-Catholic state. The most serious of these was the fact that
Croats did not even constitute a majority of the population in their own
state, just 3.3 million out of around 6.7 million people. There were 2.2
million Serbs, 60,000 Jews, 700,000 Muslims, 70,000 Protestants, as well
as hundreds of thousands of Romas and other minorities. The Ustasha solution
was clear: kill as many Serbs, Jews and Romas as quickly as possible-and
then sort the rest out later.
The Ustasha regime wasted no time at all commencing upon their
systematic policy of racial extermination of all Serbs, Jews and Romas
shortly after coming to power. If we are to adjudge that the Holocaust
began with the first mass murders of entire peoples, then it is clear
that the Holocaust began in Croatia in April 1941. The earliest punitive
actions against Serbs are believed to have taken place on the evening
of April 13, 1941 in Ogulin where Pavelic stopped to make a speech on
his way to Zagreb from Italy.(34) Mass killings began in earnest on April
28, 1941 as Ustasha military units were dispatched to towns and villages
all across the fascist state. Thousands of Serbian men, women and children
were rounded up and killed that day, their property confiscated, in cities
like Vukovar and villages like Gudovac, Tuke, Brezovac, Kokochevac, Bolch.
Throughout May and June hundreds of towns and villages throughout the
Croatian state underwent these same terrorist operations in which Serbs,
Jews and Romas were either murdered on the spot or led away to concentration
camps. By the beginning of July nearly 200,000 people, the vast majority
of them Serbs, already were killed.(35) As Holocaust historian Jonathan
Steinberg has pointed out, the Ustashi pioneered the methods of genocidal
terror and extermination only later perfected by the Nazi SS Einsatzgruppen-another
fact "conveniently" overlooked in conventional Holocaust studies.(36)
The Ustasha operations were carried out with incredible acts
of sadism and torture. In some cases entire villages were axed to death,
in others men and women were hanged, crucified, burned to death or buried
alive, body parts mutilated, decapitated, infants impaled or hammered.
In the Orthodox church at Glina hundreds of Serbs were lured inside only
to be slaughtered. Nazi Wehrmacht units attached to the Ustasha military
were so impressed by the Ustashi's methods for carrying out genocide that
they established a commission to study the killings at Bjelovar, exhume
the bodies, take photographs and write a report, later published under
the title "Ustachenwerk bei Bjelovar."(37) However, the top
Nazi and Italian military authorities were concerned that they were dealing
with out of control psychopaths who would destabilize their own regime,
and thus Axis control of the Balkans. They were right. The Nazi "Plenipotentiary"
in Zagreb, General Edmund Glaise von Horstenau reported back anxiously
to Berlin in early June 1941 that "according to reliable reports
from countless German military and civil observers during the last few
weeks, in country and town, the Ustashi have gone raging mad."(38)
As the noted historian of fascism Ernest Nolte has put it, "Croatia
became during the war a giant slaughterhouse." The operations continued
with only brief pauses throughout 1941 and 1942, then at a slightly slower
pace thereafter through 1945. No portion of territory given to Ustasha
rule was untouched by this terror. In those areas where the Orthodox Serbs
comprised a majority of the population, the Ustashi committed the worst
atrocities. Vast areas were emptied of population and left a wasteland.
Only a minority of those affected were killed immediately, the rest were
rounded up for deportation to death camps.
Croatia became at this time, as Yugoslav historian Antun Miletic
(himself a Croat) has said, "a land of concentration camps."
In order to execute the state's racial laws, the Directorate for Public
Security under Eugen Kvaternik was ordered by Interior Minister Andrija
Artukovic to create a series of concentration camps throughout Croatia.
From April to August 1941 Serbs, Jews, Romas and anti-fascists who were
not killed outright were relocated to collection camps, such as Danica,
Kerestinec, Pag, Caprag, Jadovno, Krushchica, Loborgrad, Gornja Rijeka,
Djakovo, Tenj, Sisak, Jastrebarsko and the Lepoglava Prison. Some of these,
like Jadovno and Djakovo were also major death camps. In other cases surviving
inmates were transported for extermination to the main concentration camp
system in Croatia which opened in August 1941, Jasenovac.
It was at Jasenovac that between 600,000 and 700,000 Serbs, at
least 30,000 Romas and 25,000 Jews were systematically murdered between
August 1941 and April 1945. Of all of the death camps during the Holocaust
Jasenovac was the third largest overall in terms of victims. In terms
of size it was probably the largest, spread out over 240 square kilometers
(150 sq. miles) and encompassing actually a series of five major and three
smaller "special" camps.(39) Jasenovac was intended to serve
as "the radical solution" to Croatia's racial problem-a factory
of death. Indeed, it was built around a former brick factory. Its first
Commander was the notorious Maks Luburic, a man specifically sent to the
Third Reich for training at various Nazi concentration camps prior to
the opening of Jasenovac. Jasenovac holds a number of ghastly distinctions
for its cruelty. It possessed some of the largest camps for women and
children during the war-the names of some 20,000 children murdered there
have been collected thus far. It was noted also for its extreme brutality-every
known method of murder and torture was employed there, as well as a few
unknown anywhere else. There are very few examples in human history that
can compare with the scale of murder, terror and barbarism conducted at
Jasenovac. And yet it is not even mentioned at the U.S. Holocaust Museum
in Washington DC. Why?
The answer lies with the Catholic Church. What was the Church's
reaction to and role in all of this? How deeply involved in genocide in
fascist Croatia was the Catholic Church and the Vatican? In response to
the persecution of the Jews and Serbs the Croatian clergy rallied around
the regime and provided endless articles and pamphlets justifying their
extermination. Stepinac had the racial laws published in his own publications.
Writing in response to the publication of the racial laws of April and
May 1941 the Catholic weekly "Hrvatska Strazha" in its editorial
of May 11, 1941 welcomed the legislation as necessary for "the survival
and development of the Croatian nation."
Defense from Judaism, from that destructive worm, was started
by the Fuhrer and Duce.... Our Poglavnik has also announced a regulation
on the protection and honor and blood, and we would add, on the protection
of the survival and development of the Croatian nation, and with it the
Poglavnik wants to prevent the dangerous worm from eating away at the
tree of our Croatian national life."40 Writing in response to new
racial laws against the Jews the Archbishop of Sarajevo Ivan Sharich declared:
"There exists limits to love. The movement for ridding the world
of Jews is a movement for restoring human dignity. All mighty God stands
behind this movement." The Catholic Bishops of Banja Luka and Djakovo
made similar public statements. The Croatian Academic Catholic Society
also published a brochure in 1941 entitled "Why Do They Persecute
Jews In Germany?," explaining that Hitler was to be praised for eliminating
the Jews because he was defending the German people. Hitler was merely
righting the wrongs of the past.(41) By the time the Ustashi and Catholic
Church were done with their work they had killed approximately 30,000
of the 40,000 Jews living in the territories of the Independent State
Toward Serbs the rhetoric in favor of racial extermination was
even more severe.
The Franciscan Priest Shimich stated bluntly: "All Serbs
must be murdered within the shortest time. That is our program."(43)
And the actions of the Catholic clergy were not limited to words. Catholic
priests and members of orders were recruited into as many Ustasha military
commands as possible. As with the clerical fascist state, the clerical
fascist army was led by priests. Taking up arms as if in a medieval crusade,
the Catholic clergy were transformed, as Carlo Falconi has said, "into
thorough going butcher-leaders."(44) At the very first punitive action
against Serbs at Ogulin it was the parish priest, Ivan Mikan, who addressed
the Ustashi and said "Now there will be some cleaning.... Scoot you
dogs (Serbs) over the Drina."(45) It was speeches such as these that
gave the signal to launch massacres all across the Independent State of
Croatia. Sometimes priests gave less than spiritual reasons for liquidating
Serbs, such as Father Mate Mogus in Udbina who told his congregation "Look,
people, at these 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 fields." Meanwhile, Franciscan priests in dozens of villages
attacked Serbian and Roma settlements, tortured, killed and expropriated
their victims. Father Mogus explained in another sermon that "We
Catholics 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 the machine gun.(46) The Jesuit priest Dragutin Kamber, who was also
the Ustasha Commander for the district of Doboj, personally led numerous
raids and ordered the execution of 300 Serbs in Doboj. Father Peric of
the Gorica monastery participated in the massacres of 5,600 Serbs in Livno.
Father German Castimir, the Abbot of the Guntic monastery, personally
directed the massacres at Glina.(47)
The genocide of the Serbs was to be carried out in three ways:
extermination, deportation and forced conversion. There were simply too
many Serbs to kill them all. We have left this third part of the genocide
plan, forced conversion, for last because this phase of the genocide was
almost exclusively carried out by the Catholic Church itself. At his trial
for war crimes in 1986 Andrija Artukovic emphasized that the management
of forced conversions was entirely in the hands of Archbishop Stepinac
and the church leadership.(48) In June 1941 the Ustashi created an "Office
of Religious Affairs" to handle the conversion of Serbs to Catholicism.
On July 18, 1941 the government decreed that the Serbian Orthodox religion
had ceased to exist. By early September 1941 the government decreed the
expropriation of all Orthodox Church property. Across Croatia Priests
were instructed to inform the Serbian population that they had only one
way out: become Catholic or die. This was the ultimatum the Catholic clergy
offered to a lucky third of the Serbs in fascist Croatia.
The Ustashi kept particularly good records of this phase of genocide.
One of the reasons for this is that the Ustashi were so awfully proud
of their accomplishments in this regard, that they filmed dozens of such
forced conversions for Croatian newsreels. Another is that each Catholic
diocese published weekly and sometimes daily reports of new conversions.
Children were especially targeted for conversion, especially orphans.
No doubt, today there are tens of thousands of people living in Croatia,
if not more, who do not know that they had Serbian or Jewish parents or
grand-parents, nor what happened to them. In a letter to the Vatican dated
May 8, 1944 Stepinac informed the Holy Father that to date 244,000 Orthodox
Serbs had been "converted to the Church of God."(49)
As the Serbs were marked for genocide, it was desired that no
trace of their cultural heritage should remain. 299 Orthodox churches
were destroyed. Some 300 Orthodox priests and five bishops were murdered.
As this was a clerical-fascist crusade, the Orthodox clergy were marked
for especially cruel torture, usually ending with the gouging out of their
eyes or other forms of bodily mutilation. In one case the eighty-one year
old Bishop of Banja Luka was shod like a horse and forced to walk until
he collapsed, at which point his heart was cut out and he was set on fire.
In Zagreb the Orthodox Bishop was tortured until he went insane. Some
400 Orthodox priests were transported to concentration camps.(50)
The Croatian Catholic clergy saw the rise of fascism as the beginning
of an international Catholic-fascist crusade that would convert the world
for Catholicism and the Papacy, as the following statement in "Katholicki
Tjednik" of August 31, 1941 makes clear. This was the time to destroy
the enemies of Catholicism: Communism, Judaism, Eastern Orthodoxy.
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.(51) The clergy had to
be ready to take on a military role if that was God's will. Indeed, it
had to be prepared for death and destruction. Perhaps this explains the
scale of the Catholic clergy's participation in running concentration
camps. The exact number of Catholic priests who worked as commanders or
guards at these camps in Croatia is unknown. However, there is no question
that there were hundreds, if not thousands. In a surprising number of
cases Catholic priests were named commanders or staff officers of concentration
camps. These appointments were reported in the Catholic press during the
war. Thus, we read in Novi List in 1941 that Father Stepan Lukic was named
camp adjutant of the Zepce concentration camp, Priest Ante Djuric Commander
of all camps in the Drvar district, and Father Dragan Petranovic commander
of the camp in Ogulin. The active participation of clergy in running concentration
camps in Croatia was known by the German, Italian, British and American
intelligence services, as well as the Vatican. The U.S. intelligence report
of February 23, 1943 entitled "Massacres of Serbs in Croatia"
speaks bluntly of "the bloody hands of the Catholic clergy in the
The scene of some of the most barbaric killings of all time was
the concentration camp complex known as Jasenovac. German, Italian, British
and American intelligence reports (as well as Croatian accounts) suggest
that between 600,000 and 700,000 prisoners were killed there. Aside from
intelligence reports, we have the testimony of survivors and of a few
of the perpetrators as to the crimes committed there by the Catholic clergy.
Testimony was collected by a Yugoslav War Crimes Commission (established
in 1945) and obtained during the trials of various Ustashi. A key witness
was the parish priest of Jasenovac, Juraj Parshich, who, along with survivors,
testified to the barbaric murders committed at Jasenovac by numerous priests,
among whom the most infamous were Zvonko Brekalo, Pero Brzica, Anzelmo
Chulina, Father Brkljanic, and the Jesuits Zvonko Lipovac and Father Cvitan.
However, there was one priest who has carved out a special place for himself
in the annals of sadism, barbarism and genocide. His name before the war
was Vjekoslav Filipovich, a Franciscan priest who some say was excommunicated.
During the war he went from wearing priestly robes to an Ustasha officer's
uniform, and bore the name Miroslav Majstorovich. He directed numerous
actions against Serbian villages in which he played a conspicuous part
in the killings. Before one such attack in the town of Drakulic he strangled
a Serbian baby in his hands. Then he went to Jasenovac where he served
as Commander for four months, from September 1942 to the beginning of
January 1943. At the War Crimes investigation prior to his trial, Filipovich
testified that during the four months of his command "according to
my own calculations between twenty and thirty thousand were liquidated
in the Jasenovac."(53)
It is beyond the scope of this author's comprehension to explain
the psycho-pathology of clerical-fascism. However, it is clear from their
own statements that they killed a million with clear consciences for their
belief in God, the Catholic Church and the Aryan race. This is nowhere
more eloquently expressed than in the comment made by Father Srecko Peric
of the Gorica Monastery who reassured his fellow Ustashi prior to a massacre
by saying: "Kill all Serbs. And when you finish come here, to the
Church, and I will confess you and free you from sin."(54) In other
words, they were not responsible for their actions, for they killed in
the name of God, and on behalf of God's vicar on earth, Pope Pius XII.
The Verdict: The Vatican is Guilty of Genocide
Today Pope John Paul II claims Pius XII was innocent, the Vatican
was innocent, the Church was innocent. For all these years it has kept
its archives closed, claiming it has nothing to hide. But we know otherwise.
Even without the Vatican's archives we have sufficient evidence to find
not only Pius XII, but Pope Paul VI (then Cardinal Montini, Pius XII's
closest advisor) and the entire Vatican guilty of crimes of genocide.
We cannot convict or punish them because the United States is their protector
today in the same way the Habsburg Empire once was in centuries past.
But we know enough of the details to reach a verdict.
We know that the Vatican met with and supported the Ustashi before
they ever came to power. We know that on April 7, 1941, the day after
the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia, the British Ambassador to the Vatican,
D'Arcy Osborne, implored the Pope to condemn the invasion, but that he
refused to do so.(55) We know that Pius XII met with and embraced Pavelic
on May 17, 1941, exactly one month to the day Pavelic arrived in Zagreb
to take power, and in the very weeks in which most of the racial laws
calling for a triple genocide of Serbs, Jews and Roma were being issued.
We know the Pope also met with dozens of the Ustasha leadership
and blessed them all. Pavelic made another state visit in 1943, this one
more friendly and loving than the first, at which point his regime had
killed upwards of 400,000 people. No doubt, the Pope probably met with
Pavelic after the war too when he was a wanted war criminal hiding in
the Vatican before escaping with the Vatican's help to Argentina.
The Vatican cannot claim that it was too far removed from events
in Croatia or too poorly informed. Croatia was on the Italian border and
Vatican and Ustasha officials traveled regularly back and forth. The Vatican
had its ambassadorial Legate Ramiro Marcone in Zagreb throughout the war
and his Secretary Guiseppe Masucci who spoke Serbo-Croatian fluently.
Both of them visited concentration camps in Croatia (including Jasenovac)
and met directly with those most responsible for the Holocaust there:
Artukovic, Kvartnik, etc. Meanwhile, the Italian military and government
officials in Zagreb were protesting the Ustashi's massacres and the Italian
press was writing about them regularly.
We also have dozens of acknowledgments of receipt from the Vatican
of detailed descriptions of the Holocaust in Croatia, including those
from the very few Croatian clergy who actually did protest the genocides,
like the Bishop of Mostar. His protest is incriminating on several levels:
on one it shows that Pius XII knew exactly what was going on; secondly,
it shows that clergy could oppose the Holocaust if they wanted to and
not be punished, though almost all supported it; thirdly, it offers a
sickening justification for stopping the killings, namely that more Serbs
and Jews would convert to Catholicism.(56)
We know that the Vatican was very enthusiastic about the thousands
of forced conversions of persecuted people who converted to Catholicism
merely to stay alive, and that the Vatican sent notes of encouragement
to the Croatian clergy, though warning them that they should not accept
conversions of adults who were not "sincere." We know that the
Pope personally met with Archbishop Stepinac in May 1943 to discuss the
persecution of the Jews. This is in the report of the Ustasha ambassador
to the Vatican, Lobkowicz, to the Croatian Foreign Ministry where it is
explained that Stepinac "spoke very much ...about the crime of abortion,
which was very well received in the Vatican. On the basis of these laws
the archbishop partly also justified the treatment of the Jews, who were
the greatest advocates and the most frequent perpetrators of such crimes."(57)
We know from his diary that Stepinac was an arch anti-Semite. And we know
how staunchly Pius XII defended Stepinac after the war, even after his
trial and conviction for war crimes in 1946, rewarding him with the robes
of a Cardinal, and calling him a martyr. Indeed, every Pope since Pius
XII has called Stepinac a martyr, including the current Pope who hints
at Stepinac's beatification, and who has worshipped at his tomb. John
Paul II will travel once again to Croatia this October to celebrate the
Ustasha clergy. But the only real martyrs were those who died at the hands
of the Catholic-fascist gangsters. Pius XII and Stepinac, as far as we
know, never personally murdered anyone, but what they did was far worse
than any single murder: they supported a triple genocide of Serbs, Jews
and Romas in fascist Croatia that cost a million lives.
We know that the Vatican aided in the escape of thousands of
war criminals from Croatia and all other parts of Yugoslavia. Although
Vatican representatives and Stepinac's representatives visited Jasenovac
several times, they did nothing to rescue its victims. However, when it
was the turn of the fascists to face defeat and punishment at the end
of the war, the Vatican stepped forward to rescue every single one of
the millions of fascists it could, funneling tens of thousands of fascists
from Austrian POW camps to the Vatican with false International Red Cross
identity papers and the like. As early as 1943 the Vatican intervened
forcefully with Allied military leaders on behalf of Nazi and other fascist
POWs in Italy "to exercise that mission of charity proper to the
Church." But where was that "mission of charity proper to the
Church" for the one million Serbs, Jews and Romas killed by the Church's
It is interesting to note that the Vatican ratlines, organized
by the Vatican and Croatian-Ustasha clergy, would probably have never
become widely known if not for the discovery and trial of Klaus Barbie
who escaped through them. Because of the Barbie trial, slowly the truth
about the ratlines emerged.(59) And so too did the protection by the Vatican
and U.S. and British intelligence of thousands of war criminals involved
in crimes of genocide in Croatia and Serbia emerge, hidden for the entirety
of the Cold War. They were hidden for two reasons: because the United
States and its imperialist allies were committed to the destruction of
socialist Yugoslavia and therefore did all they could to prevent the extradition
for trial of any of them; and secondly because of the importance of the
Catholic Church to the West in the Cold War. Indeed, this is why a war
criminal could become Secretary General of the United Nations: had Kurt
Waldheim committed his crimes of genocide anywhere other than Yugoslavia,
it is probable that he at least would have been exposed after the war,
if not also punished. Such is the human rights record of the United States
and Britain concerning crimes of genocide! But should not we who do oppose
fascism, and who do seek justice for its victims, be at least as vigilant
in pursuing these criminals as the Vatican has been vigilant in protecting
Incredibly, details even now are leaking out of the Vatican's
stealing of plundered property of murdered Serbs, Jews and Romas in Croatia.(60)
This story emerged in June 1997 when a memo dated October 21, 1946 written
by OSS agent Emerson Bigelow was discovered in the U.S. Treasury Department's
archives stating that the Vatican was holding around $170 million worth
of Ustasha gold plundered from Holocaust victims in Croatia. President
Clinton personally promised a full State Department investigation and
report that was to be issued in December. Then it was to be issued in
January, then February, then March.... Obviously, Clinton will never keep
his promise, because the Vatican is not only hiding the fact that it stole
the property of people it murdered, but also that it shared the loot with
America's allies (like Argentina), who were paid off to accept Nazi and
Ustashi war criminals. Besides, the American government will never assist
in the payment of war reparations to Serbs, or even to Yugoslav Jews and
Romas. America is currently in an undeclared war with the Serbs and with
Yugoslavia. And who would pay?
This brings us back to the question with which we began: What
is the Vatican hiding? Obviously, quite a lot. One might say that the
answer is "simply" complicity in the murders of tens of millions
of Jews, Serbs, Romas, Russians and others during the Holocaust. But even
this would not be sufficient, for the true answer goes far beyond this.
The full answer to this question is that the Vatican is hiding its true
historical identity and legacy, an identity that, were it to be widely
recognized by historians, could bring the entire edifice of the Catholic
Church crashing down. Indeed, the answer to this question is one that
historians are not yet ready to acknowledge, for when one considers the
crimes of the Vatican during the Holocaust alongside those committed during
the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Counter-Reformation, and through thousands
of years of anti-Jewish, anti-science, anti-democratic and anti-labor
hatred, then what one must recognize is that it was not in Hitler's Nazi
Reich nor in Stalin's gulags that the worst crimes against humanity of
torture, oppression and murder in all of history were committed. Rather,
that dubious distinction belongs to none other than the Roman Catholic
Church and its "infallible" leaders, the Papacy, the most criminal
institution the world has ever known.
1. Charles R. Allen, Jr., "The Vatican and the Nazis,
Part II," Reform Judaism, Fall 1983, p. 33.
2. "We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah," Commission
for Religious Relations with the Jews, the Vatican, March 1998.
3. This has been a long term public relations effort. See
"The Pope's In A Confessional and Jews Are Listening," New York
Times, 30 November 1997.
3. "Vatican Expresses Sorrow over Holocaust, defends
wartime Pope," CNN, 16 March 1998.
5. "The Vatican Releases Document on Church's Role During
the Holocaust," CNN Transcript of Program aired 16 March 1998.
6. "The Pope's In a Confessional and Jews Are Listening,"
New York Times, 30 November 1997.
7. The story of the "ratlines" and the employment
of Croatian fascists and war criminals during the Cold War by the U.S.
and British governments is told in Christopher Simpson's Blowback (New
Collier, 1988) and in Mark Aarons and John Loftus, The Unholy
Trinity, (New York: St. Martin's, 1991). The singularly shameless
and criminal refusal of the U.S. and Britain to cooperate with
Yugoslavia in the return of war criminals in total disregard
international treaties and laws is discussed in detail in Christopher
Simpson's The Splendid Blond Beast, (New York: Grove Press, 1993).
8. See L.S. Stavrianos, The Balkans Since 1453, (New York:
Holt Rinehart, 1961), or Mihailo Crnobrnja, The Yugoslav Drama, (Montreal:
9. Cited in Milan Bulajic, The Role of the Vatican in the
Break-Up of the Yugoslav State, (Beograd: Struchna kniga, 1994), pp. 41-42.
10. Ibid., p.38.
11. "All Serbs Must Die!" In his autobiography,
Leon Trotsky (then living in Vienna) recalled the popularity of that song
in the Austrian empire in 1914 and how his own son had been beaten up
in the street for answering back "Hail Serbia!" Leon Trotsky,
My Life, (New York: Pathfinder, 1970), p. 233.
12. Cited in Avro Manhattan, The Vatican's Holocaust, (Springfield,
Mo., Ozark Books, 1988), pp. 9-17.
13. Bulajic, pp. 48-49.
14. Ibid., pp. 49-50.
15. Ibid., p. 59.
16. Ibid., pp. 51-59.
17. Mark Aarons and John Loftus, The Unholy Trinity, (New
Martins, 1991), pp. 3-17, 48-54, 125-127.
18. Frank Littlefield, Germany and Yugoslavia, 1933-1941.
The German Conquest of Yugoslavia. (New York: Columbia U. Press, 1988).
19. One of the most widely respected scholarly studies of
Vatican complicity in the Holocaust in Croatia is Carlo Falconi's The
Silence of Pius XII, (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1970). Falconi believed
that the Pope gave his blessings to the Ustasha in 1939. See p. 266.
20. Falconi, p. 409, footnote 13.
21. Bulajic, pp. 72-73.
22. Manhattan, pp. 20-22.
23. Ibid. Also Falconi, p. 271.
24. Falconi, pp. 272-273.
25. Bulajic, p. 74.
26. Ibid., p.59.
28. Falconi, pp.294-296.
29. Ibid., pp. 266-272.
30. Vladimir Dedijer, Jasenovac - The Yugoslav Auschwitz and
the Vatican, (New York: Prometheus, 1992), pp. 136-137.
31. Recalled in an article by Josef Matel, a Professor at
Graz who served
in the Wehrmacht in Yugoslavia, quoted in Lazo M. Kostic, Holocaust
in the Independent State of Croatia, (Chicago: Liberty, 1981), p.12.
32. Kostic, p. 272.
33. Ibid., p. 80.
34. Manhattan, p. 62.
35. This figure was cited by several German intelligence reports
by Abwehr and other Nazi officers in Croatia in July 1941. Quoted
in Kostic, pp. 36-37. Carlo Falconi, who had extensive and perhaps better
access to archival materials than most historians, argues that by July
1941 350,000 people had been killed by the Ustashi, Falconi, p. 291.
36. Jonathan Steinberg, "The Roman Catholic Church and
Croatia, 1941-1945," unpublished essay marking the fiftieth
anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, January 1992.
37. Manhattan, p. 52.
37. Jonathan Steinberg, All or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust,
1941-1943, (New York: Routledge, 1990), p. 57.
38. German, Italian and Croatian primary sources collectively
these numbers as base figures. The works by Kostic and Bulajic
cited above provide abundant information on and from these sources. The
Roma historian Dragljub Ackovic argues that the number of Roma victims
was much higher in Dragoljub Ackovic, Roma Suffering in Jasenovac Camp,
(Belgrade: Struchna, 1995). The names of the camps (logors) within Jasenovac
were Versajev, Krapije, Ciglana, Kozhara, Stara Gradishka, Ciganski (Gypsy),
Mlaka, and Jablanac. The current regime in Croatia today carries on a
constant propaganda war of denial about Jasenovac and has desecrated the
site itself. The Tudjman regime to date has not acknowledged that crimes
of genocide were even committed by fascist Croatia during World War II
and holds to the view that it represented a positive chapter in Croatian
40. Bulajic, pp. 129-130.
42. The Independent State of Croatia comprised the provinces
Croatia, Bosnia, Hercegovina, Srem, and Slavonia. In these territories
there were about 40,000 Jews, out of a total of 82,242 in pre-war Yugoslavia.
About 35,000 Yugoslav Jews from other parts of Yugoslavia which were under
German, Italian, Bulgarian, Albanian and Hungarian rule, died, most of
them in German death camps. Thus, altogether 65,525 Yugoslav Jews were
43. Kostic, p. 80.
44. Falconi, p. 298.
45. Bulajic, p. 73.
46. Manhattan, pp. 61-67.
47. Ibid., p. 102.
48. Bulajic, p. 88. Bulajic was present at the trial.
49. Ibid., p. 99.
50. Falconi, pp. 287-293.
51. Manhattan, p. 83.
52. Bulajic, pp. 159-161.
53. Bulajic, pp. 148-161; Falconi, pp. 297-298.
54. Manhattan, p. 68.
55. Bulajic, p. 100.
56. Falconi, p. 294.
57. Bulajic, p. 115.
58. Aarons and Loftus, pp. 35-36.
59. The best account is Christopher Simpson's Blowback, (New
60. See "A Vow of Silence. Did Gold Stolen by Croatian
the Vatican?," U.S. News & World Report, March 30, 1998.
The Bigelow document is listed as PG 226, Entry 183, Box 29, (copy in
possession of the author).