Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Ustasha and Vatican's Silence - Part 2

Read the Part 1 and Part 3. This text was originally translated into Portuguese here. The book was originally written in Spanish.

The Ustasha and Vatican's Silence - Part 2
The crimes of the Croatian Ustashis (NDH)

KILLER FRIARS

Genocide: Ustasha soldiers pose beside five dead Serbs. (Photo)

The most scandalous of this sordid issue is that not only few priests, and particularly Franciscan friars, were in charge of the death camps.

With few exceptions, the phenomenon described here was characteristic of the Ustasha massacres. The difference of the exterminations in other countries during the Second World War it was almost impossible to imagine a punitive Ustashi expedition without the presence of a priest in charge, usually a Franciscan. [17]

The better-known of these was the Franciscan friar Miroslav Filipovic, who headed the Jasenovac camp where he gave a terrible death to thousands. Another Franciscan from that camp, Pero Brzica, it boasts a record even more macabre.

Before the arrival of new prisoners, it was evident the necessity of killing the existing ones to give vagues for newcomers. The people of the camp showed themselves excited with this perspective:
The Franciscan Pero Brzica, Ante Zrinusic, Sipka and I bet to see who would kill more prisoners in only one night. The killings began and after one hour I killed many more people than them. I felt like I was in heaven. I had never felt such ecstasy in my life. After a couple of hours I had got to kill 1,100 people, while others could only kill between 300 and 400 each. And then, when I was experiencing my greatest pleasure, I saw an old peasant stood calmly looking at me while I was killing my victims and they died with the greatest suffering.

That look strucks me, I immediately froze and for a time I couldn't move. Then I approached him and I discovered he was from the village of Klepci, near to Capijina, and his family had been murdered, being sent to Jasenovac after having worked in the forest. He spoke to me with an incomprehensible peace which affected me more than the piercing screams that followed around me. Immediately I felt the need to destroy his peace through torture and thus, through his suffering, I can restore my state of ecstasy to continue with the pleasure of inflicting pain.

I pointed to him and I made ​​him to sit with me in a trunk. I ordered him to shout: "Viva Poglavnik Pavelic!", or I'll cut your ear. Vukasin didn't speak. I tore off his ear. He said nothing. I told him again to shout: "Long live Pavelic!" or I'd tear out the other ear. And so I pulled it out. Scream: "Long live Pavelic!", or I'd cut his nose, and when I commanded for the fourth time that he shouts "Long live Pavelic!" and I threatened to rip his heart out with my knive, he looked at me and with his pain and agony said to me:

"Go ahead, wight!". These words confused me, froze me, and I tore his eyes, so the heart, I cut her throat from the ear to ear and then I threw them into the well. But something happened inside of me and I could no longer to kill throughout that night.

The Franciscan Pero Brzica won the bet, he had killed 1,350 prisoners. I paid it without saying a word. [18]
For this feat the Franciscan received the title of "King of cutting throats" and a watch from another one, possibly stolen from a prisoner before executing him.

CONVERSION OR DIE

The barbarism, far from decreasing, increased and reached a point where even the formality of the extermination camps was deemed necessary. Entire villages were raided and their inhabitants killed by knifes when not killed with hammers and axes, hanged or even crucified. The Serbs suffered the most atrocious tortures, with particular fury against the Orthodox priests, many of whom were burned, skinned and quartered alive:

The mass executions were common, the victims were beheaded and sometimes shattered. In many occasions it was common to see pieces of meat hanging in slaughterhouses with a sign that read "human flesh". The crimes of the Germans in death camps seemed small compared to the atrocities committed by Croatian Catholics. The Ustasha would love games of torture that were converted into nocturnal orgies, which included spike nails in the flesh of the fingernails, to put salt on open wounds, to cut all conceivable human parts from a body and to compete for the title of who was the best cutthroat of victims. They burned Orthodox churches full of people, impaled children in Vlasenika and Kladany, thay cut noses, ears and and gouged their eyes. The Italians photographed a ustashi who had two streams of tongues and eyes around the neck. [19]

All Orthodox Church properties were looted and confiscated. The most part of this loot was transferred to the Croatian Catholic Church, which followed delighted with the regime. The Archbishop of Sarajevo, Saric, went so far when he published a poem praising the leader of the Ustasha:
Against the greedy Jews with all their money, those who wanted to sell our souls, betraying our names, these bastards.

You are the stone on which is built up our homeland and freedom. Protect our lives from the Marxist and Bolshevik hell.
Another looting, in this case a spiritual and economical one at the same time, that the Catholic Church received was the forced conversion of thousands of Serbs, which with the tip of a knife were forced to renounce their religion. These mass conversions were classified as major triumph for Catholicism by the ecclesiastical hierarchy. [20] Why did this plundering of souls was also economical? Because, to add iniquity to infamy, these conversions took place under prior payment of 180 dinars to the Church by the converted people.

Moreover, those who knew to write should send a letter of thanks to Archbishop Stepinac, who promptly informed the Pope about the proper conduct of the conversions. In any case, the only ones who had the option of saving their life by converting were the poor peasants were and uneducated people from rural areas. All Serbian educated, to able to talk or communicate something wrong to a Serbian national identity was murdered with no possibility of salvation.

APOSTOLIC VISITOR

On May 14, 1941, Serbs from the town of Glina were concentrated in a hall by a Ustasha bunch led by the abbot of the monastery of Gunic. In the sequel, it was ordered to them to show their certificate of conversion. Only two of them had the document. The rest of them were beheaded while the abbot prayed for their souls.

Between the sale of certificates of conversion and the looting of the treasures stored in the Orthodox churches, it's not an exaggeration to say that if someone has obtained economic benefit of the genocide committed by the Croats was precisely the Catholic Church. In contrast, throughout the whole war, the Catholic Church officially supported the regime, despite its excesses and follies are public knowledge.

The Vatican couldn't claim ignorance of these serious events. On March 17, 1942, the World Jewish Congress sent a assistance note to the Holy See, a copy of which is still preserved in Jerusalem:
Several thousands of families were deported to deserted islands on the Dalmatian Coast or interned in concentration camps [...]. All Jewish men were sent to labor camps where were given drainage works or sanitation to them during which perished in large numbers [...]. At the same time, their wives and children were moved to other camps where also had to face severe hardships.
Monsignor Giuseppe Ramiro Marcone, a Benedictine of the Congregation of Monte Vergine and a member of the Romanian Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, was the personal representative of Pope in the Episcopate of Croatia, and he kept track of everything that happened there the Holy Father. The Vatican proponents claim that Marcone was a mere "apostolic visitor". However, for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Zagreb, the priest Marcone had status of "delegate of the Holy See," and at official ceremonies he was put forward, including representatives of the Axis, being considered the dean of the diplomatic corps. Moreover, Marcone, in his correspondence with the Ustasha government to qualify himself as Sancti seáis Legatus or Elegatus, but never as "apostolic visitor".

The media also echoed this situation. On February 16, 1942, the BBC issued the following report on Croatia:
The worst atrocities are being committed around the archbishop of Zagreb. The blood of brothers flows in the rivers. The Orthodox people are being forced by force to convert to Catholicism and we didn't hear the voice of the archbishop pronounces to the rebellion. Instead, it's reported that he's taking part in Nazi and Fascist parades.
Not even when the international press began to spread information about the atrocities committed by Catholic clergy, the Pope did something to stop the bloodthirsty Franciscans. The Croatian Catholic press itself reflected in its pages the persecution, treating it as if it were the most normal thing in the world. On May 25, 1941, in Katolicki List, the priest Franjo Kralik published an article titled "Why the Jews are being persecuted" justifying the genocide as follows:
The descendants of those who hated Jesus, who condemned him to death, who crucified him and immediately persecuted his disciples, are guilty for the excesses committed by their ancestors. Greed grows. The Jews who led the Europe and the world to disaster - moral, cultural and economic - have developed an appetite that only the whole world can quench it. Satan helped them to invent the Socialism and Communism. The love has its limits. The movement to rid the world from the Jews is a movement for the revival of human dignity. The almighty and wise God is behind this movement.

THE END OF STEPINAC

When it became clear that the course of the war would be contrary to the Axis, Stepinac held a few acts of "sudden humanitarianism", acts in which are based by Croatian revisionists for asking to the Israeli Yad Vashem, the National Authority for the Remembrance of the Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust, the inclusion of Stepinac in his "List of the Righteous." The petition was denied on two occasions. A representative of the institution said in regard to it that "people who occasionally helped a Jew and cooperating simultaneously with a fascist regime who was part of the Nazi extermination plan against the Jews are disqualified for the title of "Righteous"."

The contacts of the Ustasha with the Vatican aren't over with the end of World War II. On June 25, 1945, only seven weeks after the conclusion of the conflict, the Ustasha made contact with a papal mission in Saizburgo in the Austria area which was under U.S. administration. They were asking for help to the Pope for the creation of a Croatian state, or at least a Danube-Adriatic Union in which the Croats could be established. [21] The Church hid and helped Ante Pavelic to escape - overcoming the Allied authorities - fleeing to Argentina. [22] On his deathbed, and under the protection of Franco, he received the personal blessing of Pope John XXIII. John Paul II repeatedly refused to visit the concentration camps of Jasenovac on his visits to Croatia, preferring to receive the former Croatian leader and Holocaust denier Franjo Tudjman.

Finally, a factor that draws the most attention in this story is that in the end of the war, the Vatican did nothing to help Stepinac, a fact we know from a letter of Marshal Tito closed in Zagreb on October 31, 1946:
When the representative of the Pope before our Government, the Bishop Hurley, made your first visit, I explained to him the question of Stepinac. "Get him out from Yugoslavia," I said, "because otherwise they oblige to us to put him in a prison." I warned Bishop Hurley of the actions that we would follow. I discussed the matter thoroughly with him. I made him to know of the many hostile acts of Stepinac against our country. I gave him a file with all kind of documentary evidence about the archbishop crimes.
We waited for four months without any response, until the authorities arrested and brought to trial Stepinac, similar to any other individual to act against the humanity.

The archbishop remained static, despite the squalor of their adventures during the war. He was tried and sentenced to sixteen years in prison in a trial that featured testimony from dozens of witnesses who told all kinds of abuse by Catholic clergy under the eign of terror of the Ustasha. Your only defense during the trial was to say: "My conscience is clear." Only in this moment Pius XII acted, rushing to excommunicate tha participants in the trial, and finally getting his release one year later. Stepinac was elevated to the category of Blessed for the Pope John Paul II in October 1998.

Source: Biografía no autorizada del Vaticano(Non Authorized Biography of the Vatican); Chapter 5; Author: Camacho, Santiago

Notes

[17]. Ibid.

[18]. Bulajic, Milán; The Role of the Vatican in the Break-Up of the Yugoslav State: The Mission of the Vatican in the Independent State of Croatia: Ustashi Crimes of Genocide (Documents, facts), op. cit.

[19]. Deschner, Karlheinz; Mit Gott und den Faschisten: Der Vatikan im Bunde mit Mussolini, Franco, Hitler und Pavelic. Stuttgart: Günther, 1965.

[20]. Djilas, Aleksa; The Contested Country: Yugoslav Unity and Communist Revolution, 1919-1953, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1991.

[21]. Aarons, Mark and Loftus, John; Unholy Trinity: The Vatican, the Nazis and the Swiss Banks, St. Martin's Griffin, Nova York, 1998.

[22]. Ibid.

5 comments:

Roberto Lucena said...

Read the discussion about the sources in the previous post, link.

Jonathan Harrison said...

A lot of prominent westerners defended Stepinac aftr the war, including Churchill and of course the various Popes:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aloysius_Stepinac#Reactions

Roberto Lucena said...

This is an interesting issue to be treated in the future, because it refers to the political position of prominent figures of the Allied side, defending fascists or war criminals during the Cold War.

Gwunderi said...

I nearly couldn't believe it, but it's true: "All Catholics who had taken part in the court proceedings [against Stepinac], including most of the jury members, were excommunicated by Pope Piux XII who referred to the process as the "saddest trial". From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aloysius_Stepinac#Trial
Not Hitler, not Pavelic, not one single Nazi or Ustashi was ever excommunicated … I'm speechless, although it doesn't really surprise me, that's "normal" conduct of Pius XII.

Gwunderi said...

I nearly couldn't believe it, but it's true: "All Catholics who had taken part in the court proceedings [against Stepinac], including most of the jury members, were excommunicated by Pope Piux XII who referred to the process as the "saddest trial". From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aloysius_Stepinac#Trial
Not Hitler, not Pavelic, not one single Nazi or Ustashi was ever excommunicated … I'm speechless, although it doesn't really surprise me, that's "normal" conduct of Pius XII.