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CROATIA 1941 - 1946









A Long History


The End of the 1914-18 War


The Serbian Orthodox Church


Eastern Rite Catholics


The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes


The Ustasha


The Concordat


Croatian autonomy and the coup


The Invasion and the NDH


Descent into chaos


Ustasha rule


The Serbian Bishops


The Croatian Eastern Orthodox Church







 Archbishop Stepiniv


 Stepinac and Pavelic


 The Holy See


 Forced Conversions


 Some of Stephiniac's actions


 The other bishops


 The Franciscan Order


 The Jesuit Order


 Diocesan priests





Milan Budek


Jasenovac Camp


The Jews


The Old Catholics


The Gypsies


The Moslems


The Military Vicarate


The Sabor


Stepinac and the political options


The 1945 collapse


 Archbishop Stepinac's Trial


 Papal Silence


 The Crusaders (Krizari)


 The Catholic Press


Rebaptisms and Oaths





The Authors: Manhatten and O'Brien


Propaganda Tricks




Archbishop Stepinac's Diary


A 1943 Report


Allied Intelligence Documents


The Aksamovic leaflet


The Grisogono letter

Part 3

F). The other bishops

a. Apart from Stepinac, there would have been fifteen other Catholic bishops on the territory of the NDH if all Sees had keen filled ((CF 272)).

Wild accusations, contrary to the evidence, have been made that they were mostly members or supporters of the Ustasha.     

b. The Croatian bishops welcomed Croatian independence, as did Catholic Croatian publications. For the bishops' enemies, this is enough to label them as 'Ustasha' and guilty of approving the most bestial of atrocities. So it is necessary to separate facts from assertions.

c. By May 1941 over 700 of the 831 priests in German occupied Slovenia had been arrested ((VAL 199)). When they were expelled to Croatia, the Croatian bishops found work for them (300 in the Zagreb diocese alone). They also established a bureau to aid other Slovene refugees throught Croatia ((RP 107)).

d. Archbishop Ivan Saric of Sarajevo was accused of being a secret Ustasha member since 1934, of visiting Ustasha units in South America and of meeting Pavelic in Italy. He was also accused of dedicating an ode to Pavelic although the Ustasha had slaughtered Serbs.

Before 1941, Saric was popular amongst the Serbs and this annoyed Serbian political extremists ((TAB. 11 Aug. 1951)). It is agreed that he was a strongly patriotic Croat ((RJW 34)) and among the bishops the most favourably disposed towards the NDH ((SAB 93)). From 1922 Saric had been an archbishop with hundreds of priests, nuns and monks under his authority. He was holding an important place in Bosnian and church life. Is it likely that he would have taken the solemn Ustasha oath to obey the orders of a self-appointed leader of a few hundred armed men living abroad? If he had done so in public, he would have been arrested on his return home. If taken in secret, his detractors would have no evidence. The Italian author who first made this assertion didn't produce any evidence ((CF 271)).

A bishop visiting emigrants, far from their homes, will not exclude individuals from religious and social gatherings because of their political opinions. He is not likely to take notice of allegations made by their political enemies working on behalf of a dictator. Pavelic was a lawyer and former member of the Yugoslav parliament. If the country had continued as a democracy he would most likely have been a prominent member of parliament. Saric had no reason to refuse to speak to him.

His ode was not exceptional nor an encouragement to crime. Saric composed odes about other public figures, such as the Emperor Franz Joseph ((SAA 33)), the Emperor Charles ((SAA 33)), the Peasant Party leader Macek ((SAA 33)), Archduke Ferdinand ((MB 39)).

These people had widely different political agendas, so Saric could not have intended his odes to be a sign of approval of all their political aims and future actions.

Ustasha, Chetnik and Communist publications, each wishing to portray the bishop as a friend of the Ustasha, were keen to reprint this ode from time to time. It is often presented as having been written and published at Christmas 1941, following the Ustasha terrorism of the summer months, and therefore was condoning these horrors.

But the ode, 'When the Sun Shines', first appeared in the April-May 1941 edition of 'Vrhbosna' in Sarajevo ((EP 65)). This was during the first days of Croatian independence before the ethnic fighting and atrocities.

The archbishop took possession of a Jewish owned house ((CF 411)). It is claimed that this shows he was anti-Semitic. But this conclusion does not necessarily follow from what had occured. Providing charity while not appearing to condone evil acts can pose ethical problems. When war has destroyed much accommodation and a town is full of refugees, a local administrator will frequently grant the use of empty properties to those in need. It appears that a Hungarian Jew left some properties empty when he had fled. In 1943 one was handed to Saric. Whether he used it for housing refugees, for relief organisations or other purposes we do not know. However, some Catholic priests and lay people felt that its use could imply the condoning of German violence.

They wrote to Marcone and he asked a government Minister to exchange the property for another or grant funds ((CF 411)). These funds would presumably have been used to repair another property. This event does not prove the Archbishop was acting in a reprehensible manner or was anti-Semitic. These Catholics in Sarajevo must have had a sharp sense of justice when they appealed to the Pope's representative regarding one empty house in the middle of a war. If this was the most controversial of Saric's acts, it points to him not being guilty of anything more serious.

e. Jozo Garic of Banja Luka. On 10th April 1941, Orthodox bishop Paton Javanovic of Banja Luka, refused to obey a government order to leave the country ((SAA 24)). When threatened, he contacted Garic on May 4th to ask whether he could gain him a few days respite. Garic obtained an assurance from the authorities that the bishop would be safe for two or three days while he prepared to leave. But that night six thugs broke into his palace and murdered him ((SAA 24-25)). Garic then broke off all relations with the government ((SSJ 2: 20)).

In a letter to Stepinac on 4th November 1941, he gave evidence of Ustasha crimes at Banja Luka and Stepinac used this information in his letter to Pavelic sixteen days later.

f. Aloysius Misic of Mostar. He issued a circular to his priests on 30th June 1941 which was read from all pulpits. It informed the congregations that those who murdered and took the possessions of others would not be granted absolution ((SAA 32)). This was equivalent to excommunication.

On August 18th, he wrote to Stepinac deploring what was occurring         ((SAA 32)). It was Misic who in a letter dated 7th November 1941 made known to Stepinac the Ustasha atrocity at Surmanci near Mostar ((SAA 32)). This atrocity is mentioned in most books concerning this period, yet Misic's part in exposing it, is usually ignored.

Bishop Misic died in late 1941 and in April 1942, the Pope chose Dr. Petar Cule to replace him ((SAB 95)). At first Pavelic objected but, when threatened with excommunication by the Holy See, backed down ((SAB 96)). To stress the unity of the Church in the face of Pavelic's antagonism, both Archbishops, Stepinac and Saric, consecrated Cule as bishop in October 1942, with Abbot Marcone also being present ((SAB 96, CF 412)).

g. Pavao Butorac of Kotor and Administrator of Dubrovnik was accused of carrying a revolver. This is only hearsay. He was the bishop who, on 4th November 1941, wrote to Stepinac condemning the 'missionaries' sent by the Ustasha: ". . . in whose hands a revolver might be better placed than a crucifix". ((RP 391)). It is possible he said something similar to people in his own diocese and a garbled story reached the Chetniks in the forests.

h. Antun Aksamovic of Djakovo was accused of urging forced conversions. Yet Stepinac said he was the most anti-NDH of all the bishops ((SAB 93)). He was one of those singled out for praise by Rapotec, in his report to the Yugoslav government in London, as: "upholding Christian values". ((SAB 94)). Aksamovic had openly suggested the Orthodox could become Catholics to save their lives and return to Orthodoxy after the Ustasha had gone ((SAB 93)). He was active in saving Jews from deportation ((SAB 70)), and Pavelic's chaplain complained that he was not giving support to the government ((RJW 55)).

He was a cheerful character and managed to be on good terms with the officials of both the NDH and Tito's government. They each tried to win him over. The NDH awarded him a medal during the war and the Communists one in 1959 ((SAA 236)). This doesn't prove he was an Ustasha and a Communist. When a telegram of congratulations to Pavelic was sent in his name, he publicly repudiated it ((SSJ 2: 20)).

i. Klement Bonefacic of Split was another bishop praised by Rapotec, the representative of the London government ((SAB 94)).

j. Dionizije Njaradi of Krizevci (the Eastern rite diocese) died in April 1941. So Janko Simrak, his auxiliary bishop took over the administration of the diocese. In April 1942 the Pope appointed him as its bishop ((SAB 55)).

Pavelic bitterly opposed his installation ((SL 23)) because he was anti-Ustasha, but the threat of excommunication quietened him ((SAB 96)). Simrak was installed on 18th August 1942 ((CF 412)). Despite his record, his enemies accused him of supporting attacks on the Serbs. It is claimed that a letter exists in which he appointed Fr. Naned Gavrilovac to the Orthodox parish of Bolfan. But this parish had been an Eastern rite Catholic parish until the Yugoslav government imposed a Serbian Orthodox priest. The parishioners had now asked for a Catholic priest ((SL 23)).

k. When the bishops sent their joint protest to Pavelic in November 1941, it was signed by Stepinac, Boniface of Split, Aksamovic of Djakovo, Srebrnic of Krk, Pusic of Harvar, Buric of Senj and Simrak the Apostolic Administrator of Krizevci ((SAB 78)). The See of Ragusa was vacant ((CF 332)) and some bishops were unable to attend due to travel difficulties ((SAB 78)). But from the letters sent by Garic, Misic, Saric and Butoric prior to the meeting, as mentioned above, we can see they would have agreed with its resolutions condemning Ustasha sinful actions.

l. At the end of the war several bishops escaped to the West. Some authors present this as evidence that they were guilty of crimes because unwilling to stand trial. But these bishops had been particularly vilified by the Communists and would have been murdered on capture or following a mock trial. By saving their lives they were able to serve other refugees who had escaped to the west.

m. When reports of 'forced conversions' reached London, the Yugoslav government wrote to the Pope on 9th January 1942 asking him to condemn and restrain the Croatian bishops. This letter is sometimes offered as evidence of the guilt of the bishops. But it was based on third-hand allegations coming out of Serbia. Sixteen days later the Holy See replied that the Croatian Episcopate had been concerned when large numbers had asked to become Catholics. So a Bishop's Committee had been established to ensure conversions were due to conviction not constraint ((AHO 60)).

When the Yugoslav government obtained fuller details from the territory of the NDH, it sent a document to the Pope agreeing that the conduct of the bishops had been correct and in accordance with Canon Law ((O.R. Oct. 7-8, 1946)).

G). The Franciscan Order

Following the conquest of Bosnia by the Moslems in the 17th century, it was mainly Franciscan priests who served the Catholics. Their organisation could more easily maintain a low profile than bishops. In 1878 Bosnia became an Austrian protectorate. A hierachy was established in 1881 ((NCE 14:1086-9)). Diocesan priests took over many parishes, but in 1941 the Franciscan clergy still predominated throughout Bosnia. In the NDH as a whole there was one Franciscan to every two diocesan priests ((CF 411)).

The Croatian Franciscan seminary was situated near Siena in northern Italy ((SAA 29)), and when Pavelic established his Ustasha camp close by, the young Croatians came to know one another. Many seminarians saw no conflict between a priest's ministry and his support for the right of Croats to wage armed resistance to Serbian rule. But for a few, ‘nationalism’, became their 'religion' and took precedence over loyalty to the Church. These men continued their studies and were ordained, so providing them with a clerical cover for their political activities.

An Ustasha paper in June 1941, referred to the time before the German invasion: "Things that you probably did not know were then taking place. Ustasha disguised as monks came to villages carrying all sorts of things under their robes, and prepared the people". ((EP 52)). Other priests were committed to both nationalism and the priesthood, and when their superiors forbad involvement in politics, some rebelled against Church authority but the vast majority were both patriotic to Croatia and led lives of religious dedication.

In April 1941 the Ustasha agents within the Franciscans took minor military actions against the Yugoslav forces. These Ustasha priests deserted their parishes and assumed posts in central and local administration, or joined Ustasha military units as government appointed chaplains.

In the Zagreb diocese, where much of the population was educated, priests were banned from involvement in politics. But many Bosnian villagers relied on their priests to speak up for their human and social rights. So the Franciscans still permitted their members to join political parties, providing they were not specifically anti-Christian ((RP 363-4)).

As soon as communications were restored following the German invasion, the Franciscan General in Rome made contact with the Provincials in Croatia. In a letter dated 14th May he wrote:­

"Recommend to the brothers to fulfill their duties conscientiously and treat involvement in public affairs with much caution". ((OFM)).

On the 22nd he spoke to the Provincial of Dalmatia by phone. He seems to have heard disquieting news, because the following day he wrote to all the Provincials urging them to:­

"Recommend to brothers to engage in their religious and priestly duties and not in public business and politics, where great caution is required. . . . to be just and noble in all things. Never to render evil for evil, nor persecute the innocent, nor support hatred. With meekness, carefully look after the illustrious name and honour of this Croatian nation. He especially advised then to have nothing to do with religious persecution against the Orthodox and the Jews. The Catholic Church can never approve the persecution of those who, in good faith, live in another religion. They must not repeat or approve religious propaganda against non-Catholics. In particular he makes himself blameworthy if he puts an external distinction on adherents of other religions and expels them from the soil where they have lived for centuries. The past injustices against Catholics must be corrected, but Croats must not do against others, especially the Orthodox, the same or perhaps greater injustices than that done by the previous Belgrade government". ((OFM)).

The Provincial of Dalmatia was in Rome from the 27th May till 2nd June. It was arranged that the Provincial in Zagreb would call all the Provincials in Yugoslavia to a conference. The five Croatian and one Slovenian Provincials, together with the Archbishop of Belgrade and Abbot Marcone, met on the 12th and 13th of June. It was agreed that a Franciscan could not be a member of the Ustasha because its constitution was not in accord with Catholic doctrine. They also recognised the need for all to hold prudent reservations regarding public and political affairs. The decisions were sent to all Franciscans in all the Provinces ((OFM)).

For the Bosnian Provincial the implementation of these directives was not simple. If a good priest resigned from his village civic committee, fanatics could take control and thereby increase the dangers for the Serbs. The Provincial needed time for consultation and pursuasion. But on the 24th July the Franciscans in Rome issued detailed instructions allowing no room for compromises:

1. Strive prudently but resolutely for the implementation of the conclusion adopted at the provincial's meeting . . .  which bans any Franciscan from being a member of the Croatian Ustasha movement.

2. Endevour most resolutely that Franciscans attend only to spiritual and ecclesiastical affairs, leaving secular and political business to laymen and their control.

3. Franciscans must not take part in the persecution of Serbs and Jews, in the confiscation of their personal possessions and land, in the banishment of Serbs to Serbia and the re-settling of Croats in places vacated by Serbs.

4. In keeping with this, no Franciscan shall be member: a) of committees or courts investigating offences committed by Chetniks and other Serbs against Croats, and meting out punishment to the above-mentioned: b) of committees or offices dealing with re-settling of Croats in places vacated by Serbs and on land taken away from them, and: c) of committees or offices dealing with the banishment of Serbs and confiscation of their property.

5. Franciscan parishes, monasteries or provinces must not accept as gift or buy property and personal possessions which belonged to Serbs and Jews before the war.

6.  Insofar as they are able, Father Provincials and more prominent Franciscans should spare no effort in pleading with the authorities and leading officials in today's Independent State of Croatia not to carry out reprisals, not to persecute the innocent, not to confiscate property and not to forcibly banish Serbs from their homes.

7. Wherever the occasion arises, Franciscans should protect Serbs and Jews both from the populace and State authorities. Insofar as they are able, Futher Provincials and monastery superiors should extend cautious, clandestine and material assistance to the persecuted and needy Serbian brothers.

8. Franciscans must not take part in forcible and mass conversion of Orthodox believers to the Catholic faith. They must refuse to administer any Orthodox parish even if Their Eminences the local Ordinaries should offer it to them. Of course, individual conversions to Catholicism out of conviction and from free choice are permitted and desirable today as always.

9. All clergy (parish priests and chaplains) in Franciscan parishes, where Catholics are intermingled with Serbs and people of other faiths, who are irascible and unreasonable, should be removed and replaced by mature, honest and prudent people.

10. If a Franciscan carried away by national fervour, offends against obligatory tolerance towards people of other faiths and against Christian love for fellow-men, he should be punished in accordance with the gravity of his error, and in the first place by transferring him to another area where he will not have the opportunity for similar actions ((SSJ 10: 56)).

The accusation by anti-Catholics that the Franciscan Order organised an orgy of killings is based on the acts of a few individuals. An examination of how the Order treated its renegade friars destroys this myth.

Accusation 1. Fr. Tomislov Filipovic-Majstorovic, the Franciscan commandant of Jasonovac concentration camp attended Mass daily till the end of the war ((EP 255)). He was responsible for forty thousand Jews, Gypsies and Serbs being slaughtered there.

Answer: Filopovic, sometimes known as Miroslov, was vicar of Petricevac parish. During 1941, after repeated warnings to keep out of Ustasha politics in Banja Luka, his Provincial transferred him to Rama. In February 1942 the Banja Luka coal mines were destroyed and an Ustasha unit was ordered to undertake a punitive expedition against the nearby Serbian villages of Drakulici, Motike and Sargovac. These villages were situated in Filopovic's former parish. Without permission, he returned to Banja Luka, became chaplain to the unit, and went with it to attack the villages ((RP 364-5)).

At a trial held by his Franciscan superiors, he claimed he went in order to identify the few Catholics in the villages so they would not be harmed. The Catholics, being Croats, would not have been involved in the destruction of the Mines. His superiors refused to accept his defence and expelled him from the Order in May 1942. Soon afterwards he left the priesthood and the Church ((SAA 28)). Stories of him as an ex-Catholic being at Mass daily till 1945 are without foundation.

After he had left the Church, he became an Ustasha officer at the Jasenovac camp, serving under Vjekoslav Max Luburic, the camp commander ((MTA 152)). It was then that he committed the acts for which he became notorious.

Accusation 2. Fr. Justin Medic was a personal chaplain to Pavelic.

Answer: Medic was a chaplain in the Yugoslav army until it was disbanded. He then made himself a chaplain with the Ustasha militia. When he refused to obey his Provincial's order to leave this position, he was suspended. In response, he left the Franciscan Order ((RP 365)).

Accusation 3. Fr. Hinko Prejic was a member of the Ustasha.

Answer: Preejic was another chaplain with the Yugoslav army and, when it was disbanded, returned to his monastery. Later, following disputes with his superiors, he left the Franciscan Order ((RP 365)).

Accusation 4. Fr. Radoslav Glavas was an Ustasha leader who worked closely with Stepinac to obtain forced conversions.

Answer: Glavas was a young and energetic Franciscan who abandoned his parish in April 1941 to go to Siroki Brijeg. It is said he led the disarming of the local police and captured the post office ((EP 54)). In May he accompanied Pavelic to Rome ((TB 25)), and was then appointed by Pavelic to be head of the religious section in the Ministry of Justice and Religious Affairs ((SAB 75)). It was from this position that he became involved in trying to dictate to the bishops who they could and could not convert. (See 'forced conversions' section).

In February 1942 Glavas on behalf of the government, aided the formation of the Croatian Orthodox Church ((MO 40)). He ignored all Church orders for priests to cease political activities. He met Stepinac on once only ((SL 12)).

Accusation 5. Fr. Ilija Tomas was an Ustasha and took part in killings.

Answer: Tornas appears to have joined the Ustasha in 1937. As soon as the Germans invaded he deserted his parish and, together with another rebel priest, took military action. He became a local Commissioner ((EP 54)) and as such was allegedly involved in massacres. Soon afterwards, Chetniks killed him, allegedly with 22 knife wounds ((TB 37)). So his superiors did not have the opportunity to bring him to trial.

Accusation 6. Fr. Zvonko Brekalo assisted in massacres at three villages and later was an officer at Jasenovac.

Answer: When Stepinac heard of his shocking conduct at Banja Luka, he took steps in January 1943 to have him removed from his position as an army chaplain. He was suspended from the priesthood ((RP 352)). This was before he moved to Jasenovac.

Accusation 7. Fr. Brkljacic became an Ustasha officer serving at Jasenovac, and Fr. Bojanovic became prefect of Gospic, where he helped in a massacre ((SAA 28)).

Answer: If they did so they were deserting their religious vocations. Both the accusations were heard second-hand ((SSJ 2: 20)).

Accusation 8. There were other Franciscan murderers.

Answer: Some accusations may be true. The Franciscan superiors took action when necessary and able, but they did not treat a man as guilty merely because his enemies said so. Fr. Peter Berkovic was accused of crimes, yet Stepinac's secretary said he was innocent ((SL 13)).

Accusation 9. Most Ustasha leaders, such Artukovic, Djumandzic and Glavas were educated in Franciscan schools.

Answer: Ethnic hatreds were strongest where communities were intermingled and competing. So it was amongst the Croats living in Bosnia, and in the Serb districts of pre-war Croatia, where most of the extremists were to be found ((CBA 43)).  Mirko Puk was from the Serb tpwn of Glina south of Zagreb ((SSJ 17:78)). Pavelic came from central Bosnia ((MTA 124)). Vjekoslav Vrancic was from Mostar in Bosnia ((IO 28)). Artukovic was from Ljubuski, southwest of Mostar ((IO 17)), as was Josip Dumandzic ((EP 60)). Budek was born in the Serb town of Grocac ((IO 18)) in Dalmatia.

As the Franciscans provided the high school education for Croats in these areas, nearly all Croatian Bosnian leaders of all parties would have attended them. From election results, we know that the huge majority of former pupils supported the moderate Croatian Peasant Party while only 10% voted for the 'Party of Rights' ((FCL 4)).

Other former students promoted the Yugoslav Ideal, while some became Partisans or non-political. Only a few joined the Ustasha and fewer still committed crimes. The Moslem Vice-President of the NDH also came from Bosnia ((RL 600)).

Accusation 10. Many Franciscans were executed, following war-crime trials.

Answer: Priests acted as chaplains to men serving in the Croatian conscripted army (the Domobran), not the Ustasha. If a unit was ordered to execute hostages, this doesn't mean the chaplain approved.

The Communists routinely executed captured officers and priests with the excuse that they were 'war criminals'. A secret trial, execution and a public notice that they were collaborator with the Ustasha, was standard practice ((MTA 177)).

A 'war-crime trial' of 200 intellectuals, including 15 priests, was held at Dubrovnic. The trial for each victim lasted one minute ((TB 48)). Modesto Martincic, the Franciscan Provincial, said he was sure most priests were not guilty of the crimes for which they were accused, at least not to the extent maintained in the accusations ((RP 368)).

Accusation 11. Twenty-eight friars at Krizevci convent were found guilty.

Answer: The Communists executed them for 'hostile acts', yet none had taken up arms. Most were known for their hostility to fascism and there was no semblance of a trial ((RP 472)).

Accusation 12. The Prozor monastery was an Ustasha stronghold.

Answer: The size of monasteries made them attractive places for armies to hold. If Ustasha or Dombran troops requisitioned them, there was little the monks could do. A Communist writer claims the prior of Prozor called the Ustasha to defend it ((MD 191)). As the Partisans were killing priests who fell into their hands, this is possible. When they captured Prozor the Communists massacred all the monks without trial, so needed an excuse to justify their action. When they captured the convent at Siroki Brieg, fifteen monks were drenched with petrol and set on fire ((SH 212)).

Accusation 13. All Franciscans were Ustasha.

Answer: The Chetniks and Communists labelled all those who supported Croatian independence as 'Ustasha'. In 1941 there were hundreds of Franciscan priests and brothers in the NDH. It is possible that as many as a dozen committed crimes. Another thirty may have given the Ustasha political support but were free of crime. The huge majority were loyal to Croatia while persevering in their priestly duties. The Assistant Defence Council at Stepinac's "trial", said that a Franciscan friend of his was forced to receive 'converts'.

He did so by saying: "I baptize thee, and you are going to continue to believe as you have up to now. And when the time comes, you will make your own decision freely". ((RP 237)). Scores were martyred simply because, as priests, they were known to oppose Communism.

The Croatian Franciscan Institute of St. Girolimo in Rome is often labelled as a 'Centre of Ustashism'. Yet in May 1941, although situated in fascist Italy, it was not flying the Croatian flag. It was only when he was warned that a group of the men Pavelic had brought with him to Rome, were on their way to the Institute, that the rector hoisted two Croatian flags to avoid trouble ((SAB 65)). This incident took place over a month after the NDH was founded, so indicates a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the NDH at this Croatian seminary.

H. The Jesuit Order

Assertions that Jesuits led groups of bloodthirsty Ustasha to burn Serbian villages ((DM 269-270)), and helped the NDH In other ways, are pure fantasy. In 1941, Fr. Karlo Grimm the provincial, threatened to expel any of the 226 Jesuits in Yugoslavia who involved himself either in government activities (military or political) or in those of the Partisans ((VAL 198, 207)).

Allegations have been made that Jesuits Fathers Cvitan and Lipovac, led Ustasha bands of butchers ((CF 298)). Neither was a Jesuit ((VAL 204, 212)). Further accusations refer to Fr. Dragutin Kamber and Stefan Lackovic, yet again neither was a Jesuit ((VAL 212)). The first was a priest of the Sarajevo diocese ((SL 15)) and the second worked in Zagreb as Stepinac's personal secretary ((SL 15)). It is said that the Ustasha vice-governor of Bosnia during the first days of the NDH, Filix Niedzielski, was a Jesuit priest. Not only was he not a Jesuit, but never a priest ((SL 15)).

After the war, the Communists showed author Carlo Falconi three letters sent by Fr. Anton Wurster from Rome to Zagreb, to prove that Wurster was actively working In Rome for the Ustasha government.

Most Jesuits, including Fr. Wurster, had admired the Austrian Empire and had considered its dismemberment to be unwise ((VAL 206)). Much European informed opinion, including that of Winston Churchill ((VM 62)), supported the continued existence of this multi-cultural Empire. But once Yugoslavia had been established the Jesuits as a body accepted it.

Wurster was well known for his separatist views, so left the country in 1935 ((VAL 206)). In 1941 the NDH government asked Wurster to work for it. He was asked to send confidential reports on the effectiveness of Rusinovac, the inexperienced NDH 'ambassador' to the Holy See. By January 1942 Wurster had arrived in Rome and, as this work was in defiance of his superiors, he had to resign from the Order ((VAL 206)). Following Wurster's reports, Rusinovac was replaced on 31st July 1942 by Erwin Lobkowicz (Lobkovic). Wurster, no longer a Jesuit, became his secretary.

Although Wurster's political work was carried out after he had ceased to be a Jesuit, his correspondence is of interest. In his three reports to Zagreb, he mentions that the editor of L'Osservatore Romano, the head of Vatican Radio, the Jesuits, the Curia and Vatican officials in general, were all anti-Ustasha ((CF 356-8)). He also reported that the Franciscan Superior and the Rector of the St. Girolimo Institute (Croatian Catholic Institution in Rome) were both anti-Ustasha. In 1943 he confirmed that the Vatican had a regular link with the London Yugoslav government ((CF 361, 369)).

An article by a Croatian Jesuit in the Jesuit owned 'Civilita Cattolica' published in Rome, has been offered as firm proof of the Jesuits glorifying the 'Catholic Ustasha Crusaders'. But this article appeared in early 1941, before the German invasion. Written in preparation for the proposed June 1941 Zagreb Eucharistic Congress, it was a survey of Catholic organisational growth in Yugoslavia, including the pre-war Catholic Crusaders. It had nothing to do with Ustasha or other political groups ((VAL 204-5, 212)).

I). Diocesan Priests

A few diocesan priests joined the Ustasha and some of these committed crimes. But it is false history to present them as typical or acting with the approval of their bishops. Let us examine some of the names and events which frequently appear in anti-Catholic literature, and see how the Church treated them.

a. Fr. Ivan Mikan, curate of Ogulin, was accused of having spoken in favour of the forced conversion of Serbs ((EP 84, 160)). This is quite possible. He deserted his diocese of Senj ((SL 16)), moved to Zagreb, and joined Pavelic's delegation to Italy in 1941 ((EP 74)). Being away from his diocese, he had no authority to act as a priest. The government wanted him installed as parish priest of the prestigious church of St. Mark's, in central Zagreb. But Stepinac refused. He died in 1944 ((SL 15-16)).

b. Fr. Ivo Guberina is accused of many crimes and of being head of Catholic Action ((EP 108)). Excerpts from an article he wrote, 'Sacred Croatia', is considered to be major evidence of Catholic recruitment for the Ustasha:­

"The Ustasha movement would prefer these foreign and hostile elements (i.e. the Serbs] to become freely assimilated, or for this poison to be removed from the body (and go back to the places from which it came). But . . . if they intend to remain in Croatia as a fifth column [i.e. spies and traitors] so as to undermine her or, worse, take up arms then, according to all the principles of Catholic morality, they must be viewed as aggressors and the Croatian State has a right to annihilate them by the sword . . . These are principles on which natural law is founded and hence every Catholic is obliged in conscience to help in carrying them out. . . . If the Ustasha movement . . . has taken on the task of achieving this end in Croatia, to put difficulties in its way would imply ignorance of what the Catholic mission is . . . it would be a sin against the Creator to stand aside from the final struggle. . . . It is the Catholic's duty to be an instrument of the complete expression of what is essential and positive in the Ustasha movement". ((CF 299-300)).

What do we know of Guberina?  He appears to have joined the Ustasha in Italy during 1940 ((SAA 61)). Following the German invasion, he deserted his diocese, and lived for two and a half years in Zagreb ((SAB 102)).

He was not one of Stepinac's priests, and the Archbishop on 25th June 1943 forbad him exercising any priestly function within the diocese. The reason given was his conduct and actions, and the way he had scandalized the faithful ((RP 351)).

Guberina's article was published ten weeks later on 7th October ((CF 299)). It was his reply to Stepinac's action. So instead of being: 'head of Catholic Action', as alleged ((EP 108)), he was a suspended priest defiantly asserting that not only was the Archbishop wrong to place difficulties in the way of the Ustasha, but that he didn't understand Catholic teaching and duty.

c. Fr. Victor Gutic is often mentioned as a 'Catholic Ustasha'. But in pursuing his hatred of Serbs, he had little regard for the Church. In the summer of 1940 he had travelled secretly through Bosnia, building up the Ustasha organisation and appointing Ustasha officials ((EP 53)). In 1941 he became the prefect of Banja Luka and allegedly was involved in the murder of Orthodox bishop Platon ((EP 72, 98)).

He ranted and raved, calling for: "the abhorrent race" of Serbs to be wiped out and their bodies used as fertilizer: "for our fields which will become forever Croat". ((EP 81)). In one district near Prnjavor, where three churches had been seized by the Serbs, he urged the local people “You should take them over tomorrow and write on them Hrvatski Dom” [Croat Centre]. ((EP 81)).

He didn't say the fields would be forever Catholic, or that the notice should read 'Catholic Church' or 'Catholic Centre'. As a racial fanatic he saw everything in terms of Croat or Serb and ignored the Church. At the end of the war the Americans imprisoned him in Italy, where he went out of his mind ((EP 81)). Whether he should be considered evil, mad or both, his actions do not justify holding the Church responsible for the crimes of a rebel half-crazy priest.

d. It is alleged that an unnamed priest in July 1941 said:- "Until now we have worked for the Catholic Faith with Missal and Crucifix. Now the time has come for us to go to work with rifle and revolver". ((FM 167)). This may be true, and was possibly said by Guberina or Gutic. But the very words show the speaker to be a traitor to Christ and to his Church.

e. Fr. Ante Djuric of the Zagreb diocese was said to be a criminal. It is true that Stepinac recalled him from his priestly duties. He had become involved in politics, but there is no evidence that he committed any crime to justify his execution following a Communist 'trial' ((SL 19)).

f. Fr. Kerubin Segvic was executed by the Communists as a criminal. This priest was 74 years old. In 1931 he had written a book explaining his scientific theory that the Croats were descended from the Goths ((SL 17)). He went with Pavelic to Rome in May 1941, but there is no evidence he was guilty of any crime.

g. It has been alleged that Wilhelm Haeger was ordained a priest in 1944 and through him Stepinac had close connections with the Gestapo. This is another baseless allegation. Haeger's wife was in a Yugoslav prison before the war and Stepinac intervened to save her. In gratitude, Haeger contributed to restoring the shrine at Maria Bistrica. His German sounding name led some to allege, without any evidence, that he was a Gestapo agent. Being a married man, not of the Eastern rite, he could not be ordained a priest ((SL 25)).

h. Accusations against Vilim Cecelja, a priest of the Zagreb diocese, will be discussed in the 'Military Vicar' section.

i. It is said that a priest was appointed President of the Ustasha Central Propaganda Office. The person appointed was not a priest ((SL 15)).

j. It is alleged that the first Ustasha meeting in 1929 was held in a house of a Zagreb Canon. But at that time a layperson lived there. The Canon moved in several years later ((SL 12)).

i. The NDH government wanted parishes to be founded for the 'converted'. Hundreds of Slovene refugee priests were available, but the government strongly opposed their or other non-Croat priests being appointed. It said: ". . . their co-operation would be a terrible blow to the Croatian national standing in these parishes". ((EP 165)). This is another illustration that the government's motivation was not religious but one of extreme nationalism.

j. There were 1,800 diocesan priests in the NDH ((CF 411)). It is difficult to estimate how many joined the Ustasha and how many of these were guilty of crimes. The huge majority carried out their religious duties honourably in very difficult circumstances. Many of them were martyred (by the Communists more than by the Serbs). Tito had held a particular dislike of the clergy since his youth ((MTA 313)). Some of the martyrs are being considered for recognition as saints ((SSJ 3: 75 and 61: 75)).


1). Mile Budek

Those accusing the Catholic Church of instigating forcible conversion, assert that Milo Budek was a militant Catholic leader. They quote statements made by him in 1941.

Budek as a Croat was baptised a Catholic when a baby, but this does not mean his adult views were consistent with Catholic teachings. His hatred of the Serbs had become intense following being beaten in the 1930s by Serbian police agents during broad daylight ((SH 71)). As the leading Croatian writer of his time ((SAA 2)), he became Minister of Education in 1941. He was at a banquet on 6th June 1941 at which the Serbian rising of three days earlier would have dominated conversation.

He was asked a question and made a defiant response:­

"We shall kill some of the Serbs, we shall expel others, and the remainder will be forced to embrace the Roman Catholic Faith. These last will in due course be absorbed by the Croat part of the population. We have three million bullets". ((FM 123)).

There is some doubt as to whether he uttered these words ((MTA 312)). But a report or rumour soon spread that he had said one third of Serbs would be killed, a third expelled and a third converted ((SAA 22)). If we accept that he said these words or a something similar, it is instructive to analyse them. The reason given for the need to convert the Serbs was so that they would: 'be absorbed by the Croats'. These were racial, cultural, military and political objectives, not religious. Those Serbs or part-Serbs remaining in the NDH would have to bring up their children as Croatians, and Catholicism was seen as a cultural identifying mark of being Croatian. This was the same mentality as that exhibited by those Serbs who had used Orthodoxy as a means of promoting Serbian culture and nationality.

A month later Budek said:­

"Our whole work is based on our fidelity to the Church and the Catholic faith, for history teaches us that if we had not been Catholic, we should have ceased to exist". ((SAA 22)).

At a first reading this appears to show loyalty to the Church, but what he meant by the twice used 'we', was 'Croats'. His 'fidelity to the Church' was not to Her as a religion that preached love of neighbour. It was to Her as a key cultural, therefore nationalist, force within Croatian life.

In the 1930s the bishops had attempted to publish a modern Croatian translation of the Bible. They had asked the Croatian Banovina's Minister of Education in 1939 for financial assistance, but the Germans invaded before a decision could be given. So a fresh application was made to Budek when he assumed this post. He refused the request ((SAB 49)). Some books claim he was blindly obedient to the alleged desire of the bishops to massacre hundreds of thousands so as to 'convert' others. Yet he refused the bishops this simple financial request.

In another speech he boasted that Ustasha agents had been ordained priests, so they were able to spread their political ideas under the cover of being sincere priests ((EP 52-3)). Whether this is true or not, a loyal Catholic would never boast of such a sacrilegious misuse of the priesthood.

2). Jasenovac Camp

Anti-Catholic authors have asserted that Catholic priests and laymen had run the Jacenovac concentration camp as part of a campaign of terror.

The reality was very different. In the spring of 1941 camps were established to the south of Zagreb, on the banks of a fifty-kilometre stretch of the Sava river, which formed the border between Croatia and Bosnia. Prisoners were set to work draining the swampy land. The village of Jasenovac was in the centre of this sparsely populated area, so the whole complex of camps is often referred to by this name.

During wars all nations establish camps for military and political prisoners and those thought likely to be disloyal. So at first there was no reason for the Church to comment. Some of the camps maintained reasonable conditions, but in others thousands died of overwork, poor food, disease or execution.

The priest in the village of Jasenovac was not permitted access to the camp nearby ((MB 145-161)), but when he heard stories of atrocities and killings, he informed Stepinac. These were third or fourth hand accounts, so when Stepinac protested about human rights violations, he used other examples. The authorities did permit priests to visit some camps ((JFM 153)). These, no doubt, were the best ones.

On 6th December 1941, Stepinac applied for permission for priests and representatives of Caritas to visit prisoners in the camps near Jasenovac and Lobor, so as to provide gifts and encouragement at Christmas ((RP 345-6)). This was refused but, as the camps were becoming internationally notorious, the government arranged a one-day visit to one camp on 6th February 1942. This was less than three weeks prior to the opening of the Sabor, a time when Pavelic was trying to improve his image. The visiting party included journalists, Red Cross officials from five countries including Serbia and the secretaries of Stepinac and Marcone.

It is now known that at the end of January 1942 an order had been given to this camp to prepare a display for visitors. Eight new spacious and heated barracks were erected and the prisoners were transfered from the unhygenic huts. The surrounding areas and the prisoners were scrubbed. Healthy workers were brought in to man, the workshop, each working at his own trade or as a professional in an office. The prisoners were told they would be shot if they informed the visitors of the real conditions. A hundred hospital patients were killed and the hospital cleaned. New beds and linen were provided. Healthy people including nurses were put into the beds ((EP 139-140)). The visiting party did not see any sign of atrocities.

Stepinac wrote again on 21st November 1942 for permission for priests to visit camps ((ADSS viii, 226-7)). But the Church could do nothing for those in camps barred to visitors. But rumours multiplied and on 24th February 1943, Stepinac complained in a letter to Pavelic that he had been trying for months to find what had happened to seven Slovenian priests sent to Jasenovac. He presumed that they were now dead and wrote: "This is a disgraceful incident . . . Jasenovac camp itself is a shameful stain on the honour of the NDH. . . . This is a disgrace to Croatia". ((RP 322)). One of these priests survived and the Communist press claimed that he had gone to Stepinac to protest at the archbishop's inaction. But the priest told Arthur O'Brien that he had gone to thank Stepinac for what he had tried to achieve ((AHO 39-40)).

A description of the type of person running some of the camps comes from Vladko Macek, the Croatian Peasant Party leader. Macek was held in Jasenovac from 15th October 1941 till 16th March 1942. Then he was sent to Kupinec under house arrest ((VM 246)). While at Jasenovac he was kept apart from other prisoners and had a personal guard, Ljubo Milos. But Macek soon gained some idea of what was happening. When Milos made the sign of the cross before going to bed, Mecek asked if he was afraid of God's punishment for his monstrous actions.

Milos replied:­

"Don't talk to me about that, for I am perfectly aware of what is in store for me. For my past, present and future deeds, I shall burn in hell. But at least I shall burn for Croatia". ((VM 243)).

The sign of the cross was nothing more than a habit formed in childhood. His motivation was not Catholic but one of fanatical racism. We may wonder whether he was mentally ill. There were Serbs of a similar fanatical nationalist mentality. More recently an Orthodox priest said that some Serbs, when making the sign of the cross, might as well be saying, "In the name of the Father, the Son and St. Sava". ((JKB April 1996)). This same fanatical mentality existed amongst racist criminals on both sides. It was not motivated by religion.

By late 1941 the worst of the Ustasha killers had been replaced in Bosnia by more civilized administrators ((SAA 34)). Some of the thugs found work as camp guards and continued their thirst for blood. As an example, in September 1942 the newly Catholic population of Pakrac were taken to Stara Gradiska camp. Fortunately, the local Catholic priest was able to contact Stepinac who got Pavelic to order an immediate enquiry. This led to the prisoners being released ((RP 407-8)).

On 13th October 1942 Ustasha from Jasenovac, led by Lieutenant Ljubo (possibly the same man involved at Pakrac) surrounded the nearby village of Crkveni Bok. Most of the villagers were Serbs who had become Catholics. Some were killed but most were taken to the camp, where those born Croatian were released. When the men from Jasenovac ignored the entreaties of the Catholic parish priest, he wrote to Pavelic asking him to intervene.

In his detailed letter he said that the Ustasha men involved were young, drunk, swearing the most gross oaths and stole from empty houses. Also he had heard shooting. The Sub-Prefect of the district and an Ustasha captain arrived on the 14th to see what had occurred.

They were disgusted and condemned the outrage as one which should not go unpunished ((RP 400-4)). In this way decent Ustasha came to despise the brutes at Jasenovac. The camp was closed in 1947 after being used by the Communists to kill several thousand of their enemies ((SSJ 59:76)).

3). The Jews

Based on the 1931 census, there would have been 30,000 Jews in the NDH. But the influx of refugees, and the wide definition of the word 'Jew' in Nazi thought, made the number of people under threat much greater. Over 80% lived in the German zone and the remainder in the Italian ((RH 455)).

Just under 20,000 were killed, but authorities do not agree as to where they died. It appears that 10,000 escaped to Italy ((BK 185)). One authority states that 6-7,000 were deported to Auschwitz ((RH 457)) and 13,000 died in NDH camps ((VZ 29-30)). Another gives 9-10,000 at Auschwitz and 10,000 in NDH camps ((JFM 160)). Yet another source claims 18,000 died in the NDH camps ((SSJ 55: 110)) so 2,000 at Auschwitz. Some were saved by being designated 'Honorary Aryans' ((RH 455)), by being in mixed marriages ((VZ 31)), by being part Jewish ((RH 457)) or by being a Christian. Others fled to the mountains or were hidden in Croatian homes.

In most East European counries, the Jews had an economic, cultural and political influence far in excess of what a small minority might expect. The reaction, especially amongst nationalists, led to varying degrees of antagonism. The Ustasha movement, left on its own, would probably have brought Jewish industrial, commercial and professional enterprises under Croatian control.

The size of the compensation, if any, would have depended on which Ustasha leaders had been most influential at the time. In 1941 the NDH leadership, under German domination, promulgated Nazi-type racial laws. But a picture of the Ustasha, including Pavelic, being personally anti-Jewish in the Nazi sense should not be accepted uncritically. Many facts challenge this picture:

i. The Ustasha were often known as 'Francovi' or 'Frankists' due to the dominance in their political evolution of Dr. Isaiah Frank, a Jew. He became leader of The Party of Right (Law) in 1896, following the death of Starcevic. Dr. Frank became a Catholic, taking the baptismal name of Josip ((EJ 16:917)). Frank was greatly admired and honoured by the Ustasha. Yet, if he had been alive in 1941, the racial laws would have driven him from his profession as a lawyer and ordered him to wear a yellow band.

ii. A Jewish lawyer, Hinko Hinkovic, was amongst the ideological and political leaders of Croatian nationalism ((EJ 16: 917)) and Vlado Singer, a Jewish intellectual, worked for Pavelic's election to parliament in 1927 ((MTA 125)).

iii. The Ustasha was not greatly interested in the Jews prior to the outbreak of the war ((SSJ 19: 22)). Their hatred was centred on the Serbs.

iv. Pavelic (as Chief of State) and Milovan Zanic (as President of the Legislative Committee) jointly signed the 1941 decrees concerning Jewish and Serbian property ((RL 606-627)). Yet both had Jewish wives ((MR 69)). According to Nazi ideology, the lives of these wives and their 'mischling' children were under threat.

v. Slavko Kvaternik who proclaimed Croatian independence on 10th April 1941, and became Commander of the Armed Forces and Pavelic's deputy, also had a Jewish wife ((IO 21-22)).

vi. Eugen (Dido) Kvaternik was appointed Director of Public Security. Being the son of Slavko he was therefore half Jewish.

vii. The coming to power of the Ustasha was sudden and unexpected. From the confusion in most sectors of administration, it is obvious that little thought had been given to preparing for government.  Yet the anti-Jewish laws were promulgated very quickly and showed every sign of having been drafted by expert hands ((RH 454)).

viii. The laws were more comprehensive than those in Germany. But this doesn't point to the Ustasha being more anti-Jewish than the Nazis. The laws in Germany had been promulgated in 1937 to encourage the German Jews to emigrate. By the Spring of 1941 the German attitude had hardened greatly. Andrija Aktukovac, Minister of the Interior, informed Stepinac at the end of April 1941 that the Germans had ordered the laws ((MR 69)). There is no reason to doubt this.

ix. The government did obtain concessions from the occupying power. Pavelic, as head of state, was permitted to protect Jews who had contributed to, ‘Croatian life’. He increasingly used this concession to save such: 'Honorary Aryans' ((RH 454-5)).

x. The Germans army destroyed the Sarajevo synagogue on 17th April 1941 ((EJ 16: 877)). This was before this part of Bosnia had become part of the NDH, so not due to Ustasha action.

xi. The mass arrest of Jews was stepped up after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 ((EJ 16: 877)). This was in line with German policy.

xii. When on 19th October 1941, 1400 Jews were arrested in Sarajevo, it was to celebrate: 'German Day' ((EJ 16: 877)).

xiii. The largest round up of Jews in Bosnia was organised by the Germans in mid-November 1941, when 3,000 were deported to Jasenovac ((EJ 16:877)).

xiv. The anti-Jewish laws promulgated by the NDH were implemented in the German zone only, not in the Italian ((RH 456)).

xv. It was easier for the Jews to survive in Croatia as compared with Serbia, because of the Italian zone. Also, the establishment of an 'independent' Croatia, not under direct German military administration, gave many the time to escape to Italy or into the mountains.

 xvi. Jews were still holding official positions in Croatia, including senior ones within the Ustasha command, as late as 1944 ((RH 457)).

xvii. Until September 1941, Serbia was under direct German rule. In May 1941 eight thousand Jewish men were shot. Gas vans were brought to the Zemun camp and by June 15,000 Jewish women and children had been gassed.

The Zemun suburb of Belgrade was just within the NDH, but completely under German administration throughout the war ((RL 608)). German personnel carried out the executions. ((SSJ 53: 106)).

xviii. The offical reports on the progress of the killings in Serbia were interleaved, in the Einsatzgruppen files in Germany, with those from Einsatzgruppen active in Russia ((RH 438)). This clearly indicates the deaths in Croatia and Serbia were part of the Europe-wide organization of the German anti-Jewish campaign.

xix. The Jews in Vojodina, which had become part of Hungary, met the same fate as those in Croatia and Serbia ((EJ 16: 878)).

The Ustasha boasted of Croatian independence, but if Pavelic had refused to promulgate Nazi laws or had prevented the Germans using the worst elements of Croatian society as assistants, he would have been removed from power. The wives and children of the Ustasha leaders would then have been in grave danger of death. How far the Ustasha leaders willingly suported the Nazi extermination programme is open for research. We are not concerned here with passing judgement on the motives and actions of individuals. Our aim has been to provide the background against which to view the Church's reaction to events as they unfolded, which we will now do.

In the late 1930s, thousands of Jewish and other refugees entered Yugoslavia from the north. Archbishop Stepinac organised aid and in 1937 established a special Relief Committee ((RP 357)). The German Minister made several protests to the Yugoslav government concerning this work ((AHO 11)). Stepinac provided documents, food, medicines and general aid to enable hundreds to escape to other parts of the world ((MR 133-4)). Protestant Jewish refugees asked the Protestant bishop of Zagreb for assistance but, although a charitable man, he could do little because of the anti-Semitism of his mainly German flock. Stepinac undertook half the cost of their maintenance with the rest coming from an English Protestant relief fund ((AHO 10-11)).

Following the invasion, the Germans demanded the names of Jewish refugees known to the Relief Committee. The Archbishop refused to provide them ((AHO 22)). The secretary of the Committee also refused and was arrested by the Gestapo ((SL 9)). Stepinac hid Jews in his own residence and in his property at Bresovice ((SL 2)). He hid the library of the Chief Rabbi, Dr. Miroslav Freiberger (SL 10)), and also a radio of Dr. Feler, a Jewish leader ((SAB 92)).

On 23rd April, Stepinac wrote to Artukovic, Minister of the Interior, protesting at Christian Jews being included in the proposed anti-Jewish legislation      ((RP 299-300)). In reply, Artukovic explained that the laws:­

". . . had to be promulgated in that form for reasons independent of us, but that their practical application would not be harsh". ((MR 69)).

So the Minister was blaming the Germans and promising to limit their effect. On 30th April the laws were published and Jewish property in the German zone was expropriated. Jews were removed from public posts, ordered to wear a yellow badge ((EJ 16: 877)) and banned from parts of Zagreb ((VM 100)).

On 22nd May, Stepinac wrote to Artukovic protesting at the violation of the human rights of Jews and others ((RP 301)). With regard to the Jews he accepted that it was just for the state to keep the economy in the hands of the Croatian people. But to deny those of other races their human rights was a question of humanity and of morals. He went on:­

". . . not even in Germany were the racial laws applied with such rigor and speed [He was unaware of the effects of the recent secretly held Wannsee Conference] . . . Neither notorious adulterers nor common prostitutes are marked with visible signs . . . [so] why treat this way those who are members of another race through no fault of their own?".

As a compromise he suggested that the Jews reimburse the state for the cost of the insignia, but not have to wear it ((RP 300-2)). During May a group of Catholics married to Jews asked Stepinac for help. So on the 30th he again wrote to the Minister urging that Christian Jews, those in mixed marriages, their children and those who had shown patriotism to Croatia, should be excluded from the laws ((RP 302-5)). Following this and the intervention of the Papal Nuncio, the partners in mixed marriages and their children were excluded ((SAB 70)). Over one thousand lives were saved in this way ((VZ 31)).

These requests did not imply that Stepinac was indifferent towards the fate of non-Christian Jews, but that he was using whatever arguments were available to protect as many as possible. He pointed out that Christian Jews had a double burden. They were excluded from Jewish society as 'apostates' and from Gentile society as 'Jews'. The State's laws were preventing them practising their Christian faith ((RP 302-5)).

When during June 1941 there were mass arrests of Jews ((EJ 16: 877)), Stepinac sent his secretary, Dr. Lackovic, to see camp conditions and arrange for all possible assistance ((AHO 22)). As in the rest of Europe at that time, the 'Radical Solution' of the 'Jewish Problem' was understood to mean that all Jews would be sent to a new Jewish state in South Eastern Poland. On 21st July, Stepinac wrote to Pavelic urging that deportees should be allowed time to settle their family and employment arrangements, given enough food, medical care, the opportunity to communicate with their families, and not be placed in overcrowded sealed carriages ((SAB 72)).

On 30th July, a government circular stated that the law of 30th April, regarding disabilities for Non-Aryans would still apply to Jews who had become Catholics ((CF 283-5)). The law regarding the wearing of the Star of David came into force on 8th August ((SAB 70)). Two priests and six nuns were affected but, due to widespread indignation, these eight were eventually exempted ((AHO 18)). In response, Stepinac announced from his pulpit:­

"I have ordered these priests and nuns to continue wearing this sign of belonging to the people from which Our Saviour was born as long as any others will have to do so". ((AHO 18)).

In September, the government agreed that Christian Jews and those married to Christians would not have to wear the star ((SAB 70)). Having gained this concession, Stepinac tried to widen its application. In a confidential undated circular during 1941 to his priests, (See 'forced conversions' section) he gave permission for Jews as well as the Orthodox, to join the Church even though they did not believe Her teachings. But on 13th November the government ordered imprisonment for those contracting Gentile-Jewish marriage, and also for the priest or minister involved ((SAB 69)).

The main resolutions of the November 1941 bishop's conference were concerned with the Orthodox. But another resolution was sent to Pavelic petitioning him to intervene in the persecution of Catholic Jews by lower officials ((RP 305-6)).

By the end of 1941, 6,000 male adult Jews were working as forced labourers in the salt mines of Karlovac and Yudovo, with a few at Jasenovac ((RH 455)). In early 1942 there were arrests of Jewish women, children and the elderly. On 7th March 1942 Stepinac wrote to the Minister of the Interior to protest against them being placed in concentration camps. He asked that actions by 'irresponsible elements' be stopped ((RP 306)).

Stepinac arranged for South American passports to be sent by the Vatican. With these, hundreds of Jews were able to pass through Italy on their way to safety ((SL 9)). Stepinac sent nuns to care for the inmates of the Schwarz Home for sick and aged Jews, when the staff was arrested. ((SL 10)).

In July the Germans ordered that all Jews must be deported within six months ((JFM 153)). Kvaternick, the Police Chief, said he knew two million had been killed but he could do nothing. His successor repeated this ((JFM 156)).

On 8th August 1942 the Chief Rabbi of Zagreb wrote to the Pope. He thanked him for the help given to the Jewish Community by the Croatian bishops and the representatives of the Holy See. He asked whether he could get help for the Jewish women and children then in camps ((SAB 105)). But on the 13th of August a train left Zagreb with 1,300 Jews heading for Auschwitz ((JS 265)).

It was during the summer of 1942 that the Holy See was informing bishops throughout Europe that there was strong evidence that those Jews being 'resettled' in Poland were all being killed ((See Slovakia on this web site)). The ability of the bishops to intervene was very limited and by the end of the year 5,000 Jews had been deported. Further batches went during 1943 and 1944 in coaches hooked to regular scheduled trains ((RH 457)).

The Apostolic Delegate, Marcone, had arrived in Zagreb on 3rd August 1941 and three weeks later had reported to the Holy See regarding the situation of the Jews. The reply of the 3rd September instructed him "to recommend moderation concerning the treatment of the Jews residing in Croat territory." ((JFM 150)). As the Germans permitted Pavelic to exempt Christian Jews and those married to Christians from deportation, he was able in conjunction with Stepinac, to bring such people to Pavelic's attention. Through his connection with Mr. Schmidlin of the Red Cross and Stepinac, he was involved in moving a small group of Jewish children, including the son of the Chief Rabbi, through Hungary and Romania on their way to neutral Turkey ((JFM 153-4)). His secretary managed to visit some of the camps to bring solace ((JFM 153)).

When 4,000 Jews fled into the Italian zone, he reported this to the Holy See. Vatican officials were thereby able to contact Mussolini who granted them permission to stay ((JFM 151-7)). Cardinal Maglione eventually obtained permission for all Jews who escaped into the Italian zone not to be sent back ((JFM 153)). Marcone tried to persuade Eugene Kvaternik (Chief of Police) to slow down deportations ((JFM 153)). This would have provided more time for escape, but by late 1942 the authorities were not answering Marcone's questions regarding the Jews ((JFM 152)).

Abbott Marcone obtained evidence that in March 1943 Pavelic was resisting German demands to persecute the baptised Jews. Pavelic was claiming that he had made promises to the Holy See ((JFM 159)). It is no doubt more than a coincidence that in the middle of that month Stepinac was openly attacking racism and thereby strengthening Pavelic's stand. On 8th March, Stepinac had written to Pavelic, listing human rights abuses. These included those committed within the camps:­

" . . . if there is here the interference of a foreign power in our national and political life, I am not afraid if my voice and my protest carry even to the leaders of that power, . . .". ((RP 310-2)).

A few days later, on the 14th, he showed his willingness to let his protest reach the German leaders. He preached to thousands In his cathedral:­

"Consequently, every man, of whatever race or nation, whether he has studied in the universities of the civilized centres of Europe or hunts his food in the virgin forests of Africa, carries equally on himself the stamp of God the Creator and possesses inalienable rights which must not be taken from him nor arbitrarily limited by any human power . . . we have seen such tears and listened to the sobs of stalwart men, and the cries of women without assistance, over whom this danger hung, for the sole reason that the sanctity of their families did not conform to the theories of racism".     ((RP 271-6)).

The anti-Jewish campaign was European wide. On the 15th March 1943, the first train deporting Jews left Greece ((JS 94, 100)). On the 27th, the Grand Rabbi of Zagreb, Dr. Freiberger, informed Stepinac that 1,800 Greek Jews, on their way to Germany were on a train at Novska (100 kilometres south of Zagreb). They were not being allowed water or food. The train was expected to arrive in Zagreb that evening but, although the Red Cross had volunteers at the station, the Germans were not going to permit them to supply food or water. After five hours of frantic work, one of Stepinac's secretaries, through the influence of a woman, managed to speak to the German officer on duty. An agreement was reached. We do not know the details, but it resulted in the Red Cross being able to serve warm food. When a second train containing 2,000 Greek Jews arrived on 24th April they were again permitted food ((RP 313-4)).

On 7th July 1943 British Radio quoted Stepinac's sermons condemning the persecution of Jews and others. It reported that Vatican Radio had broadcast Stepinac's words ((RP 291-3)). The Soviet station: 'Slobodna Jugoslavia' in Tiflis, also gave extracts from his sermons ((AHO 14)).

On the 25th October, Stepinac delivered a long sermon in which he stressed that each man is nothing apart from what God has given him:­

". . . How, then, must we judge those individuals who raise their heads proudly as if God no longer existed on the earth and as if the law of the Gospels were superfluous.

We ought to say to them that which Christ said to the unfaithful city of Capharnaum. . . . You will descend into hell." (Mt. 21:23). . . .Only one race really exists and that is the divine race. Its birth certificate is found in the book of Genesis . . .".

He went on to stress the dignity of each man:­

"All of them without exception, whether they belong to the race of Gypsies or to another, whether they are Negroes or civilized Europeans, whether they are detested Jews or proud Aryans, have the same right to say, 'Our Father who art in heaven'. . . .the Catholic Church condemns . . . every injustice and every violence committed in the name of the theories of class, race or nationality. One cannot exterminate intellectuals . . . as Bolshevism has taught . . . One cannot extinguish . . . Gypsies or Jews because one considers them inferior races". ((RP 276-281)).

On 31st October 1943 he again preached against racism and its cruelties [See 'forced conversions' section]. But on 18th April 1944 the Germans said that the Croatian 'Jewish Problem' had been solved ((EJ 16: 878)).

Mr. Schmidlin of the International Red Cross frequently visited Stepinac seeking means of aiding Jews and others ((SL 9)). Amiel Shomrony, secretary to the last Chief Rabbi of Zagreb, recalled:­

"I took part in many actions to save Jews in the war with, the help of the Kaptol (the Archbishopric). In that way we managed to get many children out to Hungary and from there to Palestine. . . . besides that, the Archbishop personally saved a lot of people and children by hiding them. He gave the community flour every month and financially supported Jews who had been left without any means of support by the persecution. . . .". ((MTA 156)).

Meir Touval-Weltmann, Jewish relief official in Turkey wrote that Archbishop Stepinac had done all that was possible for the Jews of Croatia ((JFM 161)). The World Jewish Congress was grateful in September 1943 to Cardinal Godfrey of Great Britain and the Vatican for assisting in the transfer of 4,000 Jews to a safe Italian island ((JFM 162)).

Louis S. Breire, Programme Director of the American Jewish Committee ((AHO 72)), said during a speech on the 13th October 1946:

"This great man of the Church was accused of being a Nazi collaborator. We Jews deny this. We know from his life, from 1934 onwards, that he was always a true friend of the Jews, who in those times were subjected to the persecution of Hitler and his followers. Alojzije Stepinac is one of those rare men in Europe who stood up against Nazi tyranny, precisely at the time when it was most dangerous to do so . . . He spoke openly and fearlessly against the racist laws of Nuremberg and his opposition never faltered. It is due to him that the law of the 'yellow armband' was withdrawn . . . Next to His Holiness Pope Pius XII, Archbishop Stepinac was the greatest champion of the Jews who were being persecuted in Europe". ((OR 29-4-92)).

Part 4

Copyright ©; ChurchinHistory 2004

Version: 29th May 2006

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