A forgotten genocide of WWII — Analysis

In simply sooner or later, Croatian Nazi allies killed greater than 2,300 Serb civilians in three villages and a mine, with out firing a shot

“It was the one greatest slaughter of civilians of their houses in a single day, in such a small rural space – not simply within the Second World Conflict, however in the complete historical past of humanity.” 

These are the phrases of Lazar Lukajic, a Serb historian, describing the genocidal rampage that befell over some 10 hours of February 7, 1942, lower than two miles from the place he lived. 

The complete world has heard of Lidice, a Czech village that was destroyed by Nazi Germany in reprisal for the resistance’s assassination of the SS occupation governor, Reinhard Heydrich. In June 1942, the Nazis shot all the village’s grownup males and despatched its girls and kids to loss of life camps, earlier than razing Lidice to the bottom. A complete of 340 villagers have been killed. German propaganda proudly trumpeted this atrocity to discourage resistance elsewhere.

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But few know the names of Drakulic, Sargovac and Motike – the villages the place a number of months prior, it wasn’t Hitler’s Germans however their Croatian allies that massacred over 2,300 individuals in a single day, utilizing solely axes and mining instruments.

“With out a single bullet being fired… Each single sufferer met their assassin head to head, on their very own doorstep, earlier than being slaughtered in chilly blood,” Dragana Tomasevic, director of the Jasenovac and Holocaust Memorial Basis (JHMF), advised RT.

The villagers have been killed solely as a result of they have been Orthodox Christian Serbs. Within the Unbiased State of Croatia – a militantly Catholic shopper state allied with the Rome-Berlin Axis – that was grounds sufficient to be killed, expelled, or forcibly transformed, in a genocidal marketing campaign that served because the opening chapter of the Holocaust.

It was no coincidence that the killers – members of the bodyguard regiment of the Croat Poglavnik (chief) Ante Pavelic – have been accompanied by a priest. Fra Tomislav Filipovic, a Franciscan from the close by monastery of Petricevac, would go on to grow to be often known as “Friar Devil.”

Prologue to the Last Resolution

February 7, 1942 was lower than three weeks after the infamous Wannsee Convention, the gathering of high-ranking Nazis at which they determined that the “last resolution of the Jewish query” could be genocide. By that point, nevertheless, Hitler’s Croatian allies had already been killing Serbs and Jews for months.

The Unbiased State of Croatia (Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska, NDH) was proclaimed on April 10, 1941 – simply 4 days after Axis forces invaded Yugoslavia. Initially meant as a shopper of each Germany and fascist Italy, it was beneath the operational management of the Ustasha (actually “insurrectionists”), a fascist-inspired nationalist motion that outlined Croat id by way of the prism of militant Roman Catholicism and hatred of “Jap Schismatics,” i.e. Orthodox Serbs. 

Greater than two million Serbs discovered themselves beneath NDH rule in territories of present-day Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and components of northern Serbia. They have been denied their very own identify, known as solely “Greek Easterners,” and have been instantly positioned beneath the identical type of restrictions that Jews in Germany had been subjected to beneath the Nuremberg racial legal guidelines. The Pavelic regime additionally outlawed Jews and allowed for the seizure of their property. Pogroms in main cities reminiscent of Zagreb and Sarajevo started nearly immediately.

It was the Serbs that the NDH targeted on, nevertheless, in search of to kill a 3rd, expel a 3rd, and convert a 3rd – a coverage formulation attributed to each Tradition Minister Mile Budak and Justice Minister Andrija Artukovic. 

“The omission of Croatia from the traditional Holocaust research is sort of a guide whose first chapter is torn out,” wrote the late Jonathan Steinberg, a professor of recent European historical past on the College of Pennsylvania and a famous Holocaust scholar. Steinberg additionally described the NDH concentrating on of Serbs because the “earliest whole genocide to be tried throughout World Conflict II.” 

The primary recorded mass homicide of Serbs was recorded in Bjelovar, a metropolis some 50 miles north of Zagreb, on April 27-28, 1941, when about 180 unarmed civilians of all ages have been shot. Quickly, nevertheless, the Ustasha started saving bullets and favoring chilly metal – knives, hammers, axes and even improvised implements – to butcher their victims. 

Beginning in Could 1941, the Ustasha used the pure ravines of the Dalmatian hinterlands as pits for 1000’s of murdered Serbs – generally nonetheless alive once they have been thrown under. Solely the intervention of outraged Italians compelled them to shut the camps reminiscent of Jadovno and the Pag salt pits, in August 1941. By then, nevertheless, a brand new sequence of camps was within the works – the Jasenovac advanced, on the Sava River, within the German zone.

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Hitler himself had endorsed the persecution of Serbs – whom he blamed for the demise of Germany and Austria in WWI – and urged Pavelic towards exhibiting “an excessive amount of tolerance” at a gathering in June. This meant that experiences from Normal Edmund Glaise von Horstenau, his army envoy to Zagreb who spoke of the “insanity” of the Ustasha and warned that their atrocities have been fueling the Serb resistance, fell on deaf ears.

‘Like sheep when a wolf assaults’

Massacres of civilians as collective punishment for rebel exercise have been routine in occupied and partitioned Yugoslavia. In German-occupied Serbia, the coverage of capturing 100 civilian hostages for each Wehrmacht soldier killed and 50 for each one wounded had managed to quickly discourage the royalist resistance, however the Communists carried on regardless. A number of items of Communist Partisans operated on Mt. Kozara, northwest of Banja Luka, in present-day Bosnia however then a part of the NDH. Responding to one among their railroad raids, the native Ustasha shot dozens of civilians within the hamlets of Piskavica and Ivanjska on February 5 – and would achieve this once more per week later, killing a complete of 520 individuals.

What occurred on February 7, nevertheless, was not a reprisal bloodbath in any respect. The corporate of Ustasha, indifferent from Pavelic’s personal bodyguard regiment, got here immediately from Zagreb with just one mission: kill each Serb they may discover.

Dragan Stijakovic was 16. When the Ustasha got here to his dwelling in Motike, he hid beneath the mattress. In testimony recorded in 2003, he described how an Ustasha bayoneted his whole household to loss of life, beginning along with his mom.

“The Ustasha stopped within the doorway briefly and in silence, seemed across the room, then went by way of the door and pushed the bayonet in my mom’s chest, slightly below the left breast,” he mentioned. “When she fell, the Ustasha took his rifle and plunged the bayonet into her face, stabbing her slightly below left eye.The remainder of my household continued to look on in horror. Fully frozen, paralyzed; rooted to the spot like sheep when a wolf assaults,” Stijakovic added. The Ustasha then “calmly… stepped over my mom and began stabbing one after the other, as if stabbing the bales of hay with a pitchfork.”

I’m watching this all taking place in entrance of me. I can’t transfer. As if I’m paralyzed. I see all the things, I’m absolutely conscious of all the things, however I can’t transfer a single muscle. I can’t transfer a single a part of my physique. As if my physique is lifeless, and my thoughts and senses are alive and nicely.

A telegram despatched from Banja Luka to the Ustasha Surveillance Service (Ustaska Nadzorna Sluzba, UNS) in Zagreb on February 11 describes the killings this fashion: “One firm of Ustasha troops, commanded by Oberleutnant Josip Mislov… on February 7 at 04:00 seized Rakovac mine and used pickaxes to kill 37 Greek Schismatic employees. Continued to make use of pickaxes and axes to kill Greek Schismatic males, girls and kids in villages of Motike, the place round 750 have been killed, Drakulic and Sargovac, the place round 1,500 have been killed. Killing ended round 14:00… Detailed report back to observe.”

Neighbors’ betrayal

How did the Ustasha from Zagreb know who to focus on? Each Serbs and Croats lived within the three villages. The clue is discovered within the follow-up report, which names a few of the native Croats who acted as guides.

From the mine, the Ustasha proceeded to Drakulic, the report says. They have been guided by three native males – the miner Ivo Juric, Stipo Golub, and Simun Pletikosa – who identified the Serb homes. Everybody was taken outdoors and killed. The corporate then moved to Sargovac. On the best way again, they slaughtered 70 households within the village of Motike as nicely. Axes have been used for the killing within the villages, along with mining picks. The Croat villagers then looted the meals, livestock and even furnishings from the Serb houses, however have been advised to bury the lifeless. The burials went on for 3 days.  

“Many our bodies have been buried with out limbs, as that they had been eaten by pigs and canine,” the report famous.

{A photograph}, taken by Ustasha Stipe Kraljevic, exhibits six of his comrades posing with the severed head of Jovan Blazenovic, a Serb from Drakulic. 4 of the six have been recognized: Ante Pezic, Meho Ceric, Franjo Likanac and Marko Kolakovic. The prolonged report additionally particulars how the slaughter at Rakovac was carried out: The miners have been ambushed once they got here to start out their shifts, with the Serbs separated, then struck with blunt implements and “completed off” with picks to the pinnacle. The identical technique was used towards the third-shift miners who have been returning to the floor. The our bodies have been thrown into the mineshaft.

Each of the experiences are contained within the guide ‘Friars and Ustasha Slaughter’, printed by Lazar Lukajic in 2005. It additionally comprises the testimony of Dragan Stijakovic and 12 different surviving villagers. In accordance with Lukajic, the whole variety of Serbs killed within the bloodbath was 2,315, of which 1,363 have been from Drakulic, 257 from Sargovac, and 679 from Motike, in addition to 16 miners from different villages who have been killed at Rakovac.

‘Father Devil’

Tomasevic, who heads the JHMF charity within the UK, is the granddaughter of Dragan Stijakovic’s brother Mladen, who was in a German prisoner-of-war camp on the time of the bloodbath. She advised RT that Friar Filipovic of Petricevac didn’t simply accompany the Ustasha firm, however personally took half within the slaughter.

Mimicking Christ and his apostles, the friar took 12 of the Ustasha into the elementary faculty in Sargovac, the place he began butchering the youngsters. Dobrila Martinovic, the schoolteacher who survived the slaughter, later advised Lukajic that Filipovic personally murdered the seven-year-old Radojka Glamocanin in entrance of her, to indicate the others the right way to kill. A web page from the varsity log for February 7, 1942 lists 58 Serb youngsters as dying of “pure causes.”

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Filipovic additionally reportedly advised the Ustasha that he would absolve them of any sins, and that their killing was “baptizing” the “apostates.” After phrase of his function within the bloodbath acquired out, the abbot of Petricevac defrocked Filipovic, and the German army envoy, Normal von Horstenau, demanded he be prosecuted. Although the previous friar was court-martialed and jailed, his fall from grace didn’t final lengthy. In March 1943, he caught the eye of Vjekoslav ‘Maks’ Luburic, the Ustasha accountable for Croatia’s loss of life camps. Luburic dubbed the ex-friar a “grasp of his commerce” – i.e. killing Serbs – after which Filipovic took on the second surname, “Majstorovic.” 

Luburic had Filipovic-Majstorovic appointed commander of Stara Gradiska, one of many camps within the Jasenovac advanced, the place Serb inmates have been slaughtered with knives, axes, hammers and different blunt devices. To his victims, he turned often known as “Fra Sotona” – Friar Devil.

Captured by the Communists after the battle, Filipovic-Majstorovic was placed on trial for battle crimes and hanged in 1946, wearing a Fransciscan frock. He was by no means excommunicated by the Catholic Church.

The sin of silence

Whereas a few of the butchers of Drakulic, Sargovac and Motike have been punished on the finish of the battle, many extra weren’t. Disclosing the total extent of Croat atrocities towards the Serbs would have made it unimaginable to place Yugoslavia again collectively after the battle. Although the Communists initially meant to interrupt it aside – their notorious 1928 agenda known as for its partition alongside ethnic strains to destroy “higher Serbian bourgeois imperialism” – they have been much less inclined to take action as soon as they have been in energy, and had the backing of each the Soviet Union and the Western Allies.

So whereas the NDH genocide was acknowledged, it was declared that the Serbian royalists have been the ethical equal of the Ustasha and that the Communist Partisans have been the one true resistance to Axis occupation. Peoples of Yugoslavia have been advised to embrace fairness, within the type of “brotherhood and unity” – and if that meant dwelling subsequent door to 1’s executioners, so be it.

This meant that the survivors needed to wait years to get better simply the household heirlooms looted by the neighbors implicated within the slaughter of their family. The identical neighbors discovered jobs and energy within the new authorities. A discreet monument erected to the victims of the Nice Slaughter within the Sixties couldn’t determine them as Serbs, in order to not harm the Croats’ emotions. 

That is additionally why the Stijakovic brothers and different survivors couldn’t get their testimonies printed till the 2000s – lengthy after the propaganda of the Nineteen Nineties smeared the Serbs as genocidal battle criminals and their WWII executioners as harmless victims, in a brand new “historical past” written by the Chilly Conflict victors.



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