Croatian atrocities being forgotten: Cdn. officers
Last Updated Mon, 21 Jul 2003 18:22:09
OTTAWA - Canadian officers say they are frustrated by inaction over a 1995 ethnic cleansing operation by Croatians against Serbs one in which the Croats may have had western help.
They documented numerous atrocities during Operation Storm, which was a four-day campaign by the Croats to recover land held in central and southern Croatia for four years by Serbian militias.
However, not one person has been arrested and brought before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
More than 200,000 Serbs were expelled, and thousands were killed.
"Just amazing. You can see the holes in the back of the head," said Capt. Gerry Carron, showing pictures he took to document the killings.
"We found people in wells," he said. "There was an old lady we found head-first in a well. Why did they do that?"
Some top military officers said the expertise required to plan and execute Operation Storm meant it couldn't have been done by the Croats alone.
Croatia's American consultant
Fingers have been pointed at Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI), a U.S. consulting company based in Alexandria, Va. The company's Web site points to an article in which the Croatian government praised the job MPRI has done for it although MPRI has denied involvement in Operation Storm.
"I don't think it was the Croats themselves that did that," said Maj.-Gen. Alain Fourand, who commanded UN forces in the area of Operation Storm, adding he suspected it was MPRI.
Maj.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, who will be going to Afghanistan to command Canadian troops, also said he doubts the Croats themselves pulled off Operation Storm.
"That was done by people who really knew what they were doing," he said, adding he didn't think the Croats had the expertise.
Croatia was getting assistance in other ways. Argentina supplied artillery used in Operation Storm despite a UN ban and even though its own soldiers were working there as peacekeepers.
Looking back, Capt. Carron said peacekeepers may have made things worse by disarming the Serbs while the Croats re-armed.
Canadian officers say the involvement of the West could explain the foot-dragging on prosecution, although the tribunal said the case is largely circumstantial.
The Canadians also believe the Croatian commander of Operation Storm is being protected by supporters in Croatia's government, and that not enough diplomatic pressure is being exerted.
Written by CBC News Online staff
Selective "Justice" Turns
Blind Eye to Croatian Atrocities
by William Norman Grigg
The preferred refrain of partisans of the UN's war crimes tribunal in The Hague is that "there can be no lasting peace without justice." However, the Tribunal's equanimity regarding a large-scale Croat atrocity in southwestern Bosnia illustrates that both "justice" and "peace" can be sacrificed in the name of political expediency when pursuing them might expose the covert machinations of the very political elite that created the Dayton agreement.
"In March 1996 I took a Bosnian Serb prosecutor and a camera crew from Court TV to the site of a mass grave containing the bodies of at least 185 Serb civilians," Nick Kostich recalled to THE NEW AMERICAN. The site of that atrocity was Mrkonjic Grad, a small town in southwestern Bosnia near Croatia's Krajina region. "I was present when the site was exhumed," Kostich continues. "The bodies were not those of military personnel. They were civilians, including people as much as 80 years old." However, the gruesome discovery had little impact in the media: "There are videotapes of the exhumation of that site, and the New York Times published one photograph of the site with a caption identifying it as the scene of an atrocity, but there was no story to accompany the photo." Furthermore, the discovery "has led to no indictments yet, despite the fact that an investigator from the UN Tribunal's office of the prosecutor has visited the site."
One reason for the apparent indifference to the atrocity in Mrkonjic Grad is the fact that the Croatian army unit implicated in it may have been trained and equipped by Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI), a private military and intelligence consulting firm based in Virginia. MPRI literature describes the firm as "a professional services company engaged primarily in military-related contracting in the U.S. and international defense markets." MPRI's roster of founders, executives, and directors includes 14 retired U.S. generals, three of whom -- Richard D. Lawrence, Jack Merritt, and Carl Vuono -- are members of the Council on Foreign Relations, the focal point of America's foreign policy elite.
MPRI information officer Joseph Allred, a professor at Brigham Young University, explains that through his firm "the U.S. can have influence as part of its national strategy on other nations without employing its own army." In accordance with the Clinton Administration's Balkan strategy -- which reduced the complex and tragic Bosnian civil war into a war of "Serbian aggression" -- MPRI was hired by the Croatian regime of "ex"-communist President Franjo Tudjman in 1995 to refine his Soviet-created Ministry of Defense into a modern fighting force.
The February 18th Boston Globe reported that several months after MPRI signed its contract with Tudjman's regime, "the Croatian army mounted a summer offensive into the Serb-controlled region of Krajina, forcing more than 150,000 Croatian Serbs from their homeland."
Villages were sacked and burned, civilians were slaughtered, and women were raped. Estimates of total casualties in the four-day blitzkrieg in August 1995 run as high as 15,000 on the Serbian side, compared with a mere 118 Croat casualties (according to Croatian sources) -- a disproportion suggesting a slaughter of civilians rather than a military engagement.
In short, the Croat assault presented all of the horrors associated with "ethnic cleansing." The four-day assault, as investigative journalist Ken Silverstein observes, was conducted by an army that a few months earlier had been regarded as "bumbling and inept." Although British and French observers on the scene accused MPRI of planning and directing the assault on Krajina, the firm's spokesmen insisted that MPRI's role had been limited to instilling "democratic values" in the "ex"-communist army. Some qualified observers have greeted that account skeptically.
"No country moves from having a ragtag militia to carrying out a professional military offensive without some help," observes Roger Charles, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who monitored MPRI's activities in Croatia. "The Croats did a good job of coordinating armor, artillery, and infantry. That's not something you learn while being instructed about democratic values." The Croatian army's "democratic" handiwork in Mrkonjic Grad suggests that respect for the canons of civilized combat was not part of the MPRI training curriculum.
Was the mass grave at Mrkonjic Grad a sample of MPRI's handiwork? If so, the same political elite responsible for creating the "framework for peace" in the Balkans is creating the conditions for another round of genocidal violence. The July 15, 1996 Financial Times of London reported that a delegation of retired generals representing MPRI had arrived in Bosnia "to start a programme of instruction for the Bosnian Army, part of an effort by Washington and several Moslem states to counterbalance Serb military strength." MPRI's renewable 13-month, $140 million contract in Bosnia is underwritten by a consortium of Islamic states from Asia and the Persian Gulf. Coupled with the $100 million worth of weapons pledged to Bosnia by the Clinton Administration (including tanks and artillery), the MPRI-trained Bosnian army will have the capacity to sow numerous new killing fields in the Balkans.
The Hague Tribunal (ICTY) has asked:
"to interview retired [Croatian] general Mirko Norac as a suspect over two military operations during the 1991-95 war, a government statement said.
Norac, 34, was sentenced in March by a Croatian court to a 12 years in jail for organizing the executions of at least 50 ethnic Serbs civilians in October 1991 near the central town of Gospic.
He is the highest ranking Croatian officer to be sentenced by a local court for war crimes committed during the 1991-95 war with Belgrade-backed rebel Serbs, who opposed Croatia's independence from the former Yugoslavia.
The International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) wants to interview Norac about a 1993 operation in the so-called Medak pocket, in central Croatia, and a 1995 operation -- dubbed Storm -- which practically ended the conflict." AFP, 19 July, 2003).
On 21 July, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) acknowledged the role of MPRI, a US mercenary Outfit on contract to the Pentagon in Operation Storm, the 1995 ethnic massacres in the Krajina region of Serbia. Since the 1990s, both the ICTY and the media have been involved in a coverup of the role of the US military in the 1993 Medak pocket and 1995 Operation Storm ethnic massacres.
Below you will find the following texts:
Samo 12 godina zatvora za ubistvo 50 ljudi. Dali je to fer?
Dino Sakic samo 20 godina za bezbroj zlocina.
THE VATICAN SAVES THE CATHOLIC WAR CRIMINALS OF CROATIAROMAN MONASTERIES AS THEIR ASYLUMSTHE CROATIAN HOLOCAUST MINIMIZED
Pope Pius XII (1939-1958), who during the Second World War had secretly changed sides, and had formulated a policy against World Communism, thus enlisting the help of the USA as soon as the Nazi edifice began to collapse, took steps to save many of those who had supported the Vatican before and during the War.
The top Nazis, who had fallen into the hands of the Allies, were brought before the Nuremberg Tribunal. Most of them were hanged. Several escaped. One of these was Franz Von Papen, an official war criminal. Pius XII pleaded for him behind the scene and Von Papen not only avoided death but after a few years was released. Von Papen was the leader of the Catholic Party of Germany. At one time he had been Chancellor. He had helped Hitler into power, to such an extent that after Hitler became head of Germany, he made Von Papen his Vice-Chancellor. Von Papen was one of the most prominent war criminals saved by the Vatican. The Catholic hierarchies of many countries did the same with minor officials.
Therefore, when the Catholic leaders of the Catholic State of Croatia fled the country, they looked to the Vatican as a refuge. Many of them were helped in their escape by the local clergy or by ordinary Catholics. As we have already seen, Ante Pavelic, after many difficulties, managed to reach Rome where he absconded wearing the habit of a monk. When he was given a false passport and identity he sailed for South America, where he became active with the open support of the church. Minor war criminals from Croatia were received with a special cordiality, since they had one clear distinction that most other war criminals had not. The Croat refugees had supported a regime which had been inspired and blessed by the Pope. A Catholic Croatian State which, had Hitler won the war, would have become the model Catholic State of the Balkan regions.
One of the principal Catholic personalities to help Hitler into power was Franz Von Papen, leader of the Catholic Party of Germany, friend of E. Pacelli, the Papal Nuncio to Munich, later Pope Pius XII.
When Chancellor of Germany, Von Papen tried to set up a Catholic-Nazi Coalition.
It was he who persuaded Von Hindenburg to ask Hitler to form a Government.
Once Hitler became first Chancellor of Nazi Germany, he made Von Papen his Vice-Chancellor (January 1933). Thus, the Leader of the German Catholic Party was second in command only to Hitler in Hitlerite Germany. Von Papen and Pacelli eventually negotiated for a Concordat in which Hitler pledged to support the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church to support Hitler (June 1933).
The Croat refugees were given a privileged welcome by the Catholic authorities all over Rome. They were given facilities which few had had. When the monasteries and seminaries could no longer contain them, they were permitted to enter and hide in several convents inhabited exclusively by nuns. At first, the sudden increase in the number of the inmates surprised not a few people. Then, of course, it was realized that the truth was not what it appeared to be. Innocent observers had noticed that several so-called "nuns" were of rough appearance, masculine demeanor and appeared to be unshaven. Then, following a period which varied from weeks to months, the nunish populations decreased with the suddeness with which they had originally increased. The false documents enabled them to travel outside Italy, at which time they sailed to various countries including Australia. The success and speed of their evacuation, and lack of detection by certain authorities who should have known better, indicated the efficiency of the Vatican campaign. It must not be forgotten that many officials of the victorious government were devout Catholics. These, in cooperation with the sundry national hierarchies, worked together to ensure the safety of the fleeing Catholic Croat "refugees."
By the time the Allies began to search for them, they had been dispersed out of their reach. If many of them were still hidden somewhere in Europe, it was a certainty that they were absconded in Catholic institutions in various disguises and under the patronage of Catholic lay or religious authorities. The genocide in Croatia, although of immense horror, however, did not get the publicity which it should have. Its reality, while appreciated by the world at large, was soon minimized. Except for those who had been personally or collectively affected by it, it was almost forgotten by the postwar world. The cause for such oblivion was due to various factors. First among these was the general background of the postwar world which wished to forget the atrocities of the conflict. But more than that, the oblivion of the Croatian massacre was caused by the two most powerful lobbies in existence. That of the Jews and that of the Vatican. Each competed with the other in minimizing the
General B. Mirkovich with the author.
General Mirkovich played a paramount role during the Second World War, when Hitler was master of practically the whole of Europe and Great Britain stood alone.
Upon Yugoslavia signing a pact with Hitler (25 March 1941), thanks to which Yugoslavia sided with Nazi Germany, General Mirkovich only two days later (27 March) overthrew the Yugoslav Government and abrogated its treaty with Hitler thus bringing Yugoslavia to the side of beleaguered England.
Hitler's reaction was swift and ruthless. On the 6 April 1941 the Nazi Armies invaded Yugoslavia. The capital was bombed and the air force destroyed, thanks mainly to the treachery of Catholic Croat elements siding with the Nazis.
Many Catholic lay members and clergy, mostly Croats, helped the Nazis and fought against their own Government. This they did in order to set up an independent Catholic State of Croatia once Yugoslav unify had disintegrated. As a reward for their treachery, Hitler granted the Catholic Croats autonomy under Nazi tutelage. While the rest of Yugoslavia was turned into Nazi-occupied territory, Croatia became an independent Catholic State, where the Ustashi leader, Ante Pavelic, assisted by Archbishop Stepinac and blessed by Pope Pius Xll, initiated the terrible reign of Ustashi terror.
Left to right: Avro Manhattan, the author, and Dr. Milosh Sekulich. Dr. Sekulich was the first messenger charged by the Orthodox Church of Serbia with bringing the news of the horrors then still being committed by the Ustashi to the knowledge of the Allies.
Having managed to leave Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia (September 1941) he went to Turkey and then to Egypt. From there he made for the Sudan and then into the Congo, and finally to Lagos, Nigeria. After foiling an attempt to keep him there for the duration, he reached Portugal, followed by Ireland, finally reaching London.
There he handed over the Appeals of the Orthodox Church and the first full documentation of the Ustashi crimes and Catholic forcible conversions. After the war Dr. Sekulich, General Mirkovich and the author held a meeting of the surviving victims of the Ustashi in London, England (20 May 1951). Amongst them was a survivor whose whole family and relatives, totaling twenty-five, had been burned alive in a barn near the village of Zijimet. He broke down while recounting the terrible scene he had witnessed. (See text and footnotes.)
Hitler greets the Pope's Ambassador.
The Vatican had been a secret, and at times even an open, if cautious, supporter of Hitler. Hitler had been helped to power by the Catholic Leader of the German Catholic Party, Franz Von Papen. When Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, be made Catholic Von Papen Vice-Chancellor, second in command in Nazi Germany only to Hitler himself.
The German Catholic Party, in fact, by voting for Hitler in 1933, sent Hitler into power. Before and after then, the Vatican cooperated with the Nazis inside and outside Germany. The Catholic Hierarchy sent congratulatory greetings to Hitler and supported him fully. In this picture, there can be seen the Pope's Nuncio as he address" Hitler by saying (and of course he said it with the permission of the Pope himself), "I have not understood you for a long time. But I have worried for a long time. Today I understand you." This slogan was repeated for many years afterwards by the Vatican.
The poster above urge the peoplethat is Catholicsto vote for Hitler at the next general elections. Many Catholic clerics supported him during the war, such as Mgr. Tiso, as mentioned elsewhere in this book.
Croatian victims. The first, by magnifying the number of Jewish victims of the Nazi concentration camps; the second by saying that the Croatian victims had never been very many, in fact that they had hardly existed. But just as anti-Semitic forces denied the figure of the Jewish victims of the Nazi concentration camps, to exculpate Nazi Germany, so did the Vatican follow the same tactic, to exculpate the Catholic Croats and their supporter, the Catholic Church.
Many allies played into the Vatican's hand by helping the minimization of the Croatian atrocities. The most guilty were the American Catholic officers and officials, not to mention the State Department, already working with Pope Pius XII, in preparation for the oncoming Cold War.
The process of "minimization" of the Croatian atrocities, curiously enough, had started long before the end of the war. Indeed, soon after the atrocities were reported to the Allies. The present author, sad to relate, had been one of the earliest culprits. While broadcasting to the partisans of occupied Europe from a secret station in England, he came across a man who had escaped from occupied Europe specifically to report what was happening in Yugoslavia, or rather in that part of Yugoslavia which had not been occupied by Hitler, namely in Croatia. His name was Dr. M. Sekulich, a Serb and a member of the Orthodox Church of Serbia. Dr. Sekulich had managed to go into occupied Greece, thanks to the help of the Orthodox Church of Serbia which had recommended him to members of the Greek Orthodox Church. From there he went to Turkey, and from Turkey to Egypt. The Allies, according to him, then had helped him to sail to England. He had been a firm supporter of Mirkovich who had been accused of having collaborated with the Nazis. The British believed the accusation and then became partially responsible for the execution of Mirkovich by Tito. The accusation, it was later reported, had been made, between others, by Randolph Churchill, the son of Winston Churchill.
First Person Accounts of the Croatian Massacre of Serbs in WW II
Source: Letter written by Privislav Grizogono, a Croat and a Roman Catholic, member of the Yugoslav Diplomatic Corps, Minister to Czechoslovakia, Minister to Poland, addressed to Dr. Aloisius Ste- pinac, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Zagreb, Croatia, February 8, 1942. Published in translation by the American Srbobran, a Serbian paper of Pittsburgh, Pa., U.S.A., February 24, 1943:
"These atrocities do not amount to killings alone. They aim at extermination of everything Serbian: women, children, and aged men, and in terribly wild tortures of the victims. These innocent Serbs were stuck on poles alive, and fires were built on their bare chests. Literally they were roasted alive, burned to death in their homes and churches. Boiling water was poured on live victims before mutilation; their flesh was salted. Eyes were dug out of live victims, ears amputated, noses and tongues lobbed off. The beards and mustaches of priests, together with their skin, were ripped off rudely by knives. They were tied to trucks and dragged behind them. The arms and legs of the victims were broken and their heads were spiked.
"They were thrown into the deep cisterns and caves, then literally bombed to pieces. Crowbars smashed their heads. Their children were thrown into fire, scalding water, and fed to the fired lime furnaces. Other children were parted by their legs; their heads crushed against walls and their spines dashed against rocks. These and many other methods of torture were employed against the Serbs - tortures which normal people cannot conceive. Thousands of Serbian bodies floated down the Sava, Drava, and Danube rivers and their tributaries. Many of these bodies bore tags: 'Direction-Belgrade, to King Peter.' In one boat on the Sava there was a pile of children's heads, with a woman's head (presumably the mother of the children) labeled: "Meat for John's Market-Belgrade" (meaning meat for the Serbian market). "The case of Milenka Bozinich from Stapandza is a particularly gruesome one: they dug her unborn child out of her with a knife. Then, in Bosnia, a huge pile of roasted heads was found. Utensils full of Serbian blood were also discovered; this was the hot blood of their murdered brothers that other Serbs were forced to drink.
"Countless women, girls, and children were raped, mothers before daughters and daughters before mothers, while many women, girls, and female children were ushered off to Ustashi garrisons to be used as prostitutes. Rapes were committed even before the altars of the Orthodox Church. About 3,ooo Serbs were murdered in the Serbian Orthodox Church at Glina, and the massacre of Serbians before the altar at Kladusha with sledge hammers is something never mentioned in history....
"There are detailed and official minutes (reports) about these unheard-of crimes. They are so terrible they have shocked even the Germans and Italians. Many pictures were taken of these massacres and torture orgies. The Germans daim the Croats did these same things during the Thirty-Year War and that, since then, there is a proverb in Germany: 'God save us from cholera, hunger, and the Croats.' Even the Germans from Srem [Syrmia] hate us and act more or less humanely toward the Serbs. The Italians have photographed a vessel holding 35.5 kilograms of Serbian eyes, and one Croat deco- rated with a wreath of Serbian eyes came to Dubrovaik with two wreaths of Serbian tongues.
"Though we Croatians shall never be able to erase this shameful- ness which we brought upon ourselves with these crimes, we can at least lessen our responsibility before the world and our consciences if we raise our voices in protest against all these crimes.
"This is the last hour for us to do so. After all the great crimes in history, punishments follow. What will happen to us Croats if the impression is formed that we participated in all these crimes to the finish?"'
At Zemum, Feb. 8, 1942
* There are passages in this document relating to Croatian atrocities which are unprintable
Source: Handwritten report sent by underground channels through Cairo, written by Dr. Theodore Lukac, a Croatian, director of the District Hospital at Mostar, Yugoslavia:
. . . "Meanwhile, 24 days after the first pogrom, that is on June 2, 1941, the real massacre began. Vidovdan [the Serb national holiday] was approaching, and the Ustashis openly said that the Serbs would remember this Vidovdan. We now come to the most treacherous crime committed by the Ustashis. On June 22 Pavelich published an order in the official newspapers, on the wireless, and even through church sermons, that whoever used force against the citizens of the state would be most severely punished. At the same time he sent a coded telegram to each Ustashi group, directing them to carry out by whatever means they wished precisely during the days before Vidovdan the massacre and extermination of the Serbs.
"From June 24th to the 28th over 100,000 Serbs were murdered in Bosnia, Herzegovina, Dalmatia, Lika, Croatia, and Srem [Syrmia]. Ah of them were innocent men. On this occasion they were carried off, not under cover of night, but in fuh daylight. The Serbs were caught as if they were wild beasts, in the streets, in oficial buildings, and in their ofices. The peasants were caught in their fields. They were thrown into lorries and carried outside the towns, where they were massacred. Many of them were subjected to the most brutal tortures before they were killed ....
"Out of 2,000 Serbs in Livno, over 1,900 were murdered. A few old men and women and some smah children got away. At Ljuboski all the Serbs were killed and not one was spared. There perished with them a very popular doctor of the town, Dr. Alexander Lukac.
"In Stolac, all the Serbs, except three old men of over eighty, were put to death. At Ljubinje and in the valley of Popovo polje, more than 8,000 peasants were killed and all the Serbian villagers were completely exterminated.
"Twelve hundred people were killed in Mostar, among them some of the most prominent persons: seven priests, Dr. Valjko Jelashic, the medical officer, the most prominent businessmen such as the brothers Cerekovic, Ljuba Sain, Jovo Oborin, Tosa Mjuhic, and his brother, Dr. Veljko Mjuhic, schoolmasters, engiheers, judges, and the railway officials.
"The remainder of the Serbs were saved either by flight into the forests or else by going into Serbia. For a great deal of money permits to travel to Serbia could be bought from the Gestapo....
"In Bihac and the neighborhood not one Serb remained alive. On the eve of Vidovdan they rounded up the peasants in the neigh bor bood of Bihac and 9,000 men were killed in only four days. The executioners were the gypsy-moslem scum, and they were paid by the Ustashis fifty dinars. a kilogram of mutton, and a kilogram of rakija per hour of murdering.
"But the worst murder occurred in Glina. Each night Serbs were bound and taken (from the concentration camps) to the Orthodox Church, where they were killed with knives. The corpses floated on the blood, and the murderers boasted that they walked in Serbian blood up to their knees.
"In the valley of the Neretva, from Mostar towards Metkovic, all were exterminated; in Capljina only one Serbian remained alive. In the villages of Klepce and Pribilovci, near Capljina, they took away 300 peasants, deceiving them by telling them that they were being taken to work. Then they shut them up in great sheds, which they set alight so that they died of the most terrible suffering....
"The concentration camps were not barracks, but merely open places which had been endosed or else roofless sheds, with no floors to lie down upon and where people were shut in as if they were animals. For food they were given once a day a lind of soup, which was in fact merely lukewarm water with five or six beans in it. In the course of three weeks, most of them died of acute dysentery. The most infamous of the camps was the one at Jasenica on the Sava , where over 60,000 people succumbed.
"The worst of the women's camps was at Loborgrad. It is impossible to describe the conditions which women had to endure. They could not wash, and they had to lie down on the filth. The young ones were raped, and girls of fourteen were found to be pregnant. The camp on the island of Pag was the scene of the most terrible bloodshed. There were about 4,500 Serbs there, 2,500 Jews, and about 1,500 Great Nationalists, C ommunists, and so-called Freemasons. They also lived in the open, and they were murdered under particularly brutal circumstances. When the Ustashis heard that Pag would gain be taken over by the Italians they killed all the persons in the camp at the last moment, merely in order to prevent their being set free by the Italians....
"The turn of some towns, Sarajevo for instance, came as late as October and November 1941. At that time punitive expeditions were sent to the villages around Sarajevo, Palo, Blasuj, Romania, Semozovac, Railevac, all of them purely Serbian villages. They a lways proceeded in the same way: they either caught the peasants through trickery, or else during night attacks with the help of the regular troops.
"The district where the Serbian population was the most compact ofered the strongest resistance to the Ustashis: that is, Bosanska, Krcina, E. Bosnia, and Herzegovina.
"This terrible catastrophe at the hands of their 'brothers,' according to quite certain information simultaneously collected by two committees, the one on Split and the other, a secret one, in Belgrade, cost the Serbs not less than 700,000 lives."
Source: A legal affidavit, signed and sworn to by Herberovic Hilmija, a Mohammedan resident Croatia, in regard to the Glina massacres:
"I came to Belgrade in 1938 and lived there until the war. At first I made my livelihood by selling various trifles on the street; later, I was employed as office servant by the Centralno Transportno Drustvo of Kolarceva, Belgrade.
"On the day of the bombing I was in Belgrade, and I left on the same day to report to my command in Susak; in accordance with my mobilization orders....
I cannot remember the date, but I think it must have been the I7th or 18th of April 1941. The company commander on that date called all the soldiers together and informed us that the war was over and everyone should proceed home....
I arrived home in Bosanski Novi about the 24th of April, 1941....
Then I received an order from the military command in Petrinja to report there....
At the beginning of June my company was ordered to Glina to establish order and peace in that district and to collect all the arms nd ammunition from the people....
On our arrival in Glina we searched the houses of that town and then went to the neighboring villages. When the searching was over the Ustashis arrived from Zagreb and Petrinja and we were then ordered to round up from the villages all men from twenty to fortyfive years of age....
At the beginning we arrested only the men. We collected them from the villages and shut them in the Court gaol. There they remained several days, until the gauls were filled, and they were then put to death. The killing was done in several ways. Some were locked up in the Orthodox Church in Glina, which could contain 1,000 men. Then the company oficer chose about fifteen men to do the killing. They were then sent into the church with knives. During the butchering, sentries were placed before the church. This was necessary because some of the Orthodox Serbs dimbed up the bell tower and jumped into the porch. All these were killed by the sentries in the porch. I was three times chosen to do the killing. Each time we were accompanied by some officers, Dobric Josip and Cvitkovic Mihailo, and some Ustashi officers.
"When we entered the Church the officers remained at the door and watched while we did the killing. Some we struck in the heart and some in the neck. Some we struck haphazard. During the killings there were no lights in the church, except that some soldiers were specially appointed to light our way with electric torches. It happened on several occasions that some Serb rushed us with his fists or kicked us in the stomach, but he was butchered immediately. There was always much noise during the killing. The Serbs used to shout 'Long live Serbia,' 'Long live the Serbs,' 'Down with Pavelich,' 'Down with the Ustashis,' 'Down with the Croatian State,' etc.
"The killing usually began at about ten o'dock in the evening and lasted until two o'dock in the morning, and the cries were continued until the last Serb was killed . These killings in the Church took place seven-eight times, and I took part in them three times. Everytime we were so bespattered with blood that our uniforms could not be cleaned. We therefore changed them in the magazine and washed them later. The church was washed after every killing, after the corpses were taken away in motor trucks. Usually they were thrown into the river Glina. Sometimes they were buried.
"Some Orthodox Serbs were taken from the gaol to the river Glina and mashine-guned. Usually three to four hundred persons were machine-gunned at a time. They were stood up in two ranks on the bank, tied arm to arm with ropes, and then shot with machine guns which were placed a few yards away. The machine-gunning was don e by the Ustashis while we stood guard around. The corpses of these persons were thrown into the Glina....
"My company's task was to round up the Serbs in Glina and in the Glina district, but orders were also given that all Serbs in the districts of Topusko and Vrgin Most as well as Glina should be rounded up and killed. I do not know exactly how many Serbs we re Killed, but I have heard it said that about 120 thousand Serbs from the abovementioned districts have been killed....
"I have nothing more to add. These notes have been read out to me, and all my statements have been correctly written down.
"I can read and write."
Source: Letter written by a Jewish physician, professor in the Department of Medicine in the University of Belgrade, to a friend in London on his escape from Yugoslavia in 1942. As the writer is a Jew, for the sake of relatives who remain in Yugoslavia his name cannot be used:
"In Yugoslavia there were 85,000 Jews, including Jewish emigrees from Germany, Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Thanks to the Serbs, the Yugoslav Jews had succeeded in saving and rescuing many of their compatriots from Germany and German-occupied countries. Service rendered and assistance given to Jews by Yugoslav consular officials in Austria and Czechoslovakia has specially to be recognized. Of the total number of Jews in Yugoslavia about 7,500 were refugees.
"The Jews in Yugoslavia were divided into Sephards, and Eskenasis [Ashkenazis]. The Sephards lived principally in Belgrade and Serbia, also in south Serbia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina. The Eskenasis principaly settled in Croatia, Slavonia, and the Voivodina. After the partition of Yugoslavia the Jews came under the rule of various regimes, including Pavelich's `Independent Croatian State'.
The `solution' of the Jeiwish question in the Independent Croatia devolved upon the Croatian Ustashis. In Serbia, however, the Jewish problem was not dealt with by the Serbs themselves. This the Cermans reserved for themselves. There are special reasons f or this. When they occupied Serbia, the Germans did not find any anti-Semitic feeling in the country. They could not persude either the local population or the local autorities to take any anti-Semitic measures.
"The fact that Nedich twice demanded from the German commanding officer in Serbia and the Banat that he and his government should be given the right to settle the Jewish problem, against whom no drastic measures should and could be taken in Serbia, shows the feeling of the Serbian people toward the Jews. The following reasons were given by Nedich to the Germans for this demand. If the Germans wanted the Serbs to calm down, it would be of first importance to stop the terrible persecution of the Serbian Jews. The Serbian people could not and would not accept such treatement `of their compatriots of the Jewish religion.' The Serbs consider Jews as their brothers, only of a different religion. The answer which Nedich reccieved from the Germans reg arding this demand was 'that the Serbs have not attained a culture to the degree necessary to enable them to deal with the Jews. We ourselves shall settle the Jewish question in Serbia.'
"With regard to anti-Semitism, Yugoslavia can be divided into two parts, i.e., districts where this feeling was latent, and Serbia, where, it can be said without any exaggeration, anti-Semitic feeling has never had any root.
"During Yugoslavia's twenty-three years of existence, Serbia has always professed the free democratic tradition existing in the former Kingdom of Serbia. There in the nineteenth century, and later in the twelfth, the Jews always had full civic rights and complete equality with their Serbian compatriots. This equality was not only granted in various constitutions of the Kingdom of Serbia and later of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, but it was also a true expression of the relationship between the Orthodox Serbs and the Jews in their everyday contact. This friendly and amicable relationship also existed in the economic, financial, and political life in Serbia. The small group of Jews living in Serbia gave their contribution towards the cultural and political life in Serbia's struggle for the formation of a state of South Slavs. The Jews had in Serbia members of Parliament. In Serbia's struggle for liberation, the Jews gave their contribution. Several were awarded the Karadgeorge Star for bravery in the battlefield - equivalent to the British V.C.
"About a year before Yugoslavia was attacked by Germany, by pressure from the Reich and in their attempt to suit their policy to the dictators, the Tsvetkovich-Machek Government passed the first anti-Semitic measure in Yuoslavia. The Government vas not unanonimous on this point. Dr. Koroshets, leader of the Slovenes, upheld the measure as Minister of Education. Serbian cabinet ministers, how- ever, induding the Minister of War, refused to apply the act. The application of it was confined to the Ministry of Education, under the Slovene Dr. Koroshets, and the Ministry of Trade and Industry, under the Croat Dr. Andres.
"In all the schools and universities, numerous restrictions were ap- plied by circular, but in Serbia Serb teachers and professors succeeded in avoiding or sabotaging the regulations.
"In this regard Serbia completely differed from Croatia under Dr. Machek and the district governor or ban, Shubashich. In Croatia anti- Semitism was inherited from Austria-Hungary. Anti-semitic centers had always existed. Dr. Shuba****ch's Croatia had even prepared elaborate laws and regulations just before the war broke out in Yugoslavia in 1941. A large part of the industries in Jewish hands in Croatia was to be confiscated and nationalized. Anti-Semitism was particularly stressed in Croatia by the right wing of Dr. Machek's Croatian Peasant Party.
"This report could be divided into two parts - the first beginning with the entry of German troops into Belgrade in April 1941 to the beginning of August 1941; the second from the middle of August 1941 until the closing down of the office of the 'Jewish section' late in 1942. The section was closed because there were no longer any Jews in occupied Serbia. During the first stage the Jews were tortured, persecuted, maltreated, taken for forced labor. Well-known Jews and Serbs were talien to German concentration camps. Women of the intelligentsia class were forced to clean latrines in the German bar- racks, to clean floors and sweep streets under the supervision of the S.S. troops. They were made to clean the windows of high houses from the outside, and severall of them lost their lives through failling down. Jewish girls were violated and taken to `Militar-Medi'. Already during the first stage the Jews were deprived of all their property and most of them were evicted from their homes.
"In the second period male Jews were sent to concentration camps. But quite a number of men and young Jews succeeded in escaping to the villages, where they lived with Serbian peasant families. A number later joined the guerrillas. A considerable number of youths from the Jewish Zionist organization, which co-operated with the Serbian organizations for the preparation of resistance, actively helped the guerrilla fighters. Many collected hospital materiall for the guerrillas or posted anti-German posters in Belgrade streets. The name of Almozlmo, a schoolboy of ten, the son of a well-known Belgrade dispensing chemist in ing. Peter Street, should be mentioned. He threw bombs at two armored German cars and a tank in Grobljanska Street in Belgrade and blew them up. His elder brother, a medical student, is still fighting in Bosnia, in spite of the order that the mayor and mem- bers of the rural councils would be shot if such cases were discovered in their villages.
"Some forty of my relatives were shot in Belgrade by the Germans. I am, however, very proud to say that today two small relatives of mine, one of five and one of seven years of age, whose parents were shot by the Gestapo, are being hidden by two Serbian mothers.
No German measures in Belgrade were able to upset the friendly relations between the Serbs and Jews. During the forced-labor period Serbs talked to their Jewish friends in the streets even in front of the German soldiers and police. During the period well over 300,000 Serbs were massacred by the Croat Ustashi in Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Lika and some 60,000 shot by the Germans in Serbia, during the period when Serbian students and peasants were hung in the main square in Belgrade, the Serbs of the capital had sufficient courage to protest publicly their indignation at the treatment of the Jews.
"When Jewish women were transported in lorries to the concentration camps, Serb shopkeepers in the streets through which these processions passed closed their shops and their houses, thus expressing not only their protest, but also emphasizing the fact that the entire population of Serbia, yesterday and today, does not and cannot participate in the extermination of their Jewish neighbors.
"The example of the Serbian people with regard to the Jews is unique in Europe, particularly in the southern part of the continent. In spite of intensive German propaganda in writing and through the wireless, the Serbs remained unaffected. When we consider what happened to the Jews in neighboring countries, in the 'Independent State of Croatia,' Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria, the Serbian example shines out.
"Today there are no more Jews left in Serbia, except some children hidden by the Serbs and those fighting along with the Serbs in the forests. I saved my own life thanks to my Serbian friends. I was saved from certain death. Serbian peasants and my other friends also saved from death my only son, who was on several occasions sought by the Gestapo in Belgrade.
"It is my desire as a Jew and as a Serb that in free democratic countries where Jews are still enjoying full freedom and equality they should show gratitude to the Serbian people, pointing out their noble acts, their humane feelings, and their high civic consciousness and culture....
"I cannot conclude this report without mentioning how the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch Gavrilo, and his clergy tried to save Serbian Jews and Gypsies. Up to the present day the Germans have massacred I70,000 Gypsies, men, women, and children, in Serbia and the Banat. Serbian Orthodox priests and the Serbian peasantry risked their lives not only to save ordinary Jews and their children but also to save those Gypsies and their children. Today the chief rabbi of Yugoslav Jews lives in America. He was saved from the Gestapo, being smuggled out from Serbia from monastery to monastery by the Serbian clergy. He was handed over by one Serbian church to another, by one Serbian priest to another until he was passed on to Bulgarian territory. There, with the assistance oif the Orthodox Bulgarian clergy, some of whom were his personal friends, he arrived at the Turkish frontier."
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The Reagan Information Interchange
Regional Report: Levar Widow Legal Action
Widow of murdered Croatian war crimes witness issues damages claim against government.
By Drago Hedl in Osijek (TU 316, 02-06 June 2003)
The widow of a Croatian army officer said to have been killed in retaliation for providing damning testimony to The Hague is suing the government for allegedly doing nothing to protect him.
Vesna Levars husband, Milan, gave evidence at the tribunal six years ago about suspected Croatian atrocities against Serbs. He was later murdered by unknown assassins, despite Zagreb agreeing to a request from The Hague to provide him police protection.
His wife is seeking 800,000 kuna, around 100,000 euro, in damages from the government, claiming it did nothing to ensure his safety. She said she was reluctant to pursue the action, but had been forced to do so because of the authorities failure to support her family.
I was patient and I did not wish to file a lawsuit, Vesna Levar told IWPR. I expected the state to help me, that my son Leon, who is now in the seventh grade, would get his fathers pension and that we would be given a place to live in. However, no one did anything, I did not get a single kuna from the state.
Milan Levar was a commanding officer in the Croatian army reconnaissance-sabotage team and surveillance and tapping centre in Gospic in 1991. In 1997, he made headlines here by volunteering to travel to the tribunal to give evidence about high-level army officers allegedly organising the systematic killing of Serbs in the area.
When Levar returned to Croatia after giving his testimony at The Hague, he spoke openly to the press. In interviews, he claimed to have had meetings in 1991 with Ivica Oreskovic, the secretary of the local crisis committee, and General Mirko Norac, surrounded by dead bodies.
Dead, slaughtered people were lying on the floor, and the meeting was held in the midst of all this blood. I stand by my claim that Norac and Oreskovic were the ones who issued the orders and committed war crimes, Levar told a Novi list journalist.
He and his family were subsequently threatened and harassed as well as shunned by their neighbours in Gospic.
On April 1, 1998, the tribunal asked Zagreb to place Levar under police protection. Two weeks later, the government, then led by President Franjo Tudjman, informed the tribunals chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte that this would be taken care of.
But Levars widow insists the government never provided her husband with any protective measures. And on August 28, 2000, Levar was killed by a bomb that exploded outside his Gospic house. His nine-year-old son witnessed the murder.
A police investigation into the killing - apparently retaliation for his testimony - confirmed Vesna Levars allegations. It determined that Levar was never provided any protection because Tudjmans government had not authorised the Gospic police to do so.
When Prime Minister Ivica Racans government took power in 2000, it began investigating Levars claims, and, in February 2001, indicted Norac for war crimes. The general was eventually tried and sentenced to 12 years in imprisonment and is currently appealing the conviction.
However, no one was ever arrested for the Levar murder and his family were not provided any compensation.
The state did nothing for my husband, although it was issued an order to protect him. That is why I hold it indirectly responsible for his death, Vesna Levar told IWPR.
She said she is reluctant to wage a long legal battle against the state - as this will force her to relive her husbands murder - but has no choice.
Croatias statute of limitations on cases like these is three years and this August will be the third anniversary of Levars death.
There is no money that could make up for the loss of my sons father, or for the loss of my husband. But at least life can be made easier for my son, because I cannot give him what he deserves, she said.
Drago Hedl is an Osijek-based IWPR contributor.