Monday, January 13, 2014

The Ustasha and Vatican's Silence - Part 3

Read the Part 1 and Part 2. This text was originally translated into Portuguese here. The book was originally written in Spanish.

The Ustasha and Vatican's Silence - Part 3
The crimes of the Croatian Ustashis (NDH)


Far from being a historical mystery, the escape of thousands outlaw Nazis to South America and other parts of the world is a fact broadly documented in what the Holy See took part actively. Sinister Characters such as Pavelic, Klaus Barbie or Joseph Mengele went into exile making a prior scale in Vatican. Meanwhile, in Croatia, the last Ustasha men hoped that a timely intervention of Vatican diplomacy propitiated the creation of an independent Croatian state off of Yugoslavia.

Ustasha soldier displays proud his macabre trophy, the decapitated head of a Serbian Chetnik. (Photo)

When it became clear that Zagreb would be liberated by Allied troops, the Ustasha men tried to save what they could. In late April 1945, Pavelic, with the full consent of his friend Stepinac, ordered that they be taken to the Franciscan monastery in Zagreb thirty-six coffers with a macabre loot (gold teeth and jewelry, mainly) confiscated of the victims of the slaughter of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies.[23] However, Pavelic himself retained other thirteen coffers to ensure his escape and a comfortable retreat. [24]

First, the monks hid the treasure in the crypt beneath the main altar and later in a hole dug under the confessionals, where it remained until to be recovered by the troops of the Marshal Tito. After burying his loot, Pavelic went commanding fifteen hundred loyal men towards Austria, [25] hoping to have the support of the British and the Vatican. But he didn't wait to be taken prisoner by the Americans, who had been following his track since his arrival in Austria. They got to arrest him near Salzburg.

However, when they were already finalizing the arrangements for the prosecution of war crimes, Stepinac and the Archbishop of Salzburg interceded for Pavelic was released. Finally, the war criminal found shelter among the same walls of the Vatican, though his stay was short. To avoid the scandal, Pius XII, conscious that the Allied victory had given a turn in the political world, inveted Pavelic to go to the Holy See embassy disguised as a priest in a car with diplomatic plate. Pavelic maintained the false identity for a time under the name of Father Benares or Father Gomez. [26]

The Americans followed the slippery Pavelic, but they decided not to act for deference of the Holy See. The counterintelligence military agents in charge with the subject well clarified it in a report:
"The current Pavelic's contacts are of such a high level, and his present situation is so compromising to the Vatican, that his extradition could be a big problem for the Catholic Church." [27]
More or less by those dates, Father Krunoslav Draganovic, secretary of the Croatian Confraternity of San Girolamo, who was part of the Pontifical Assistance created by Pius XII, an institution of the Vatican in Rome, received from Croatia over four hundred pounds of gold [28] that should be employed "in the work of assistance and pastoral care of refugees in Croatia."

(In other words, this will help the former Croatian Ustashis to escape from the Allied authorities and the partisans of Tito in particular.) In honor of the truth, it's fact this gold wasn't part of the looting of Serbian and Jewish victims, as Monsignor Simcic says, currently permanent specialist of the Ecciesia Dei Pontifical Commission, and then collaborator of Draganovic:
This charity operation had its disposal two boxes of gold ingots drawn by the Army retrating from the front forehead, before the advance of the Tito's partisans. These boxes were of the Croatian National Bank, while the assets seized from Jews were administered by the Division of the Ministry of Public Security. They Two very different administrations. [29]

On July 31, 1942, the Ustashis kill in the Orthodox Church in Sadilovac, Kordun, 314 Serbian adults and 149 children under 14 years. They killed children in front of the church wall.

Part of the Draganovic's "operation charity" - who was subordinate to the secretary of state Giovanni Battista Montini, Montini later would become Pope Paul VI - was to get personally the escape to Argentina for a big number of German war criminals and Croats. [30] The Croatian Franciscan Draganovic wasn't in a good situation in those days since he had been an Ustasha officer and he have done forced conversions of Serbs. [31] In 1943, Draganovic left behind her hectic life as Ustasha soldier and joined the Vatican. [32] So it's not surprising he showed some interest in saving his former comrades.

There was a time not less than thirty former Ustasha, including himself Draganovic, congregated at the seminary of St. Jerome (San Girolamo degli Illirici), five of which, including a priest, were on the list of most wanted war criminals. "Other ones were refugees in different Catholic institutions, such as the Oriental Institute. There are confidential reports of U.S. intelligence services at the time in fact, they bluntly qualified the seminary of St. Jerome as the headquarters of what was left of the Ustasha. [33] the Allies Intelligence couldn't do anything about that, since San Girolamo, despite being outside the Vatican walls, had the status of territory of the Holy See.

The most illustrious guest of St. Jerome was Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyon, which was delivered to Draganovic at the train station in Genoa by Intelligence American officers who expected to take advantage of Barbie in the future. Draganovic obtained documents from the Red Cross with a fake name for him and his family. Barbie and other Nazis embarked for Genoa, in March 1951, bound for Buenos Aires, later passing through Bolivia. In early 1948, when tensions with Soviet Union were increasing, British and Americans began to look with better eyes these Vatican's hiding operations, since some of the fugitives had technical, scientific, military and Intelligence knowledge and it could be helpful during the cold war.

In fact, the Americans established their own smuggling operation of war criminals - under the name of Operation Paperclip - by which they took advantage of the services of leading scientists such as Werner von Braun, who should have been tried at Nuremberg by experiments with humans in the center of Aeronautical Research of Peenemunde (Germany) or General Reinhard Gehien, which came to occupy a position of high importance in the CIA before taking position in the intelligence services of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Ustasha soldiers bearing decapitated head of the Serbian Jovan Blaženović.

The brutal practice of cutting heads and flaunt them as prize was an outstanding practice of the Ustasha.

Other war criminals who obtained refuge behind the walls of the Vatican were Franz Stangl, commandant of the death camp of Treblinka (Poland), Eduard Roschmann, The Butcher of Riga, SS General Walter Rauff, the inventor of the gas chamber portable, Gustav Wagner, commander of the Sobibor camp, and especially Dr. Joseph Mengele, the Angel of Death of Auschwitz.

A curiosity, those refugees who were hiding in religious convents were mostly disguised as nuns. So in many convents happenned a sudden increase in the number of sisters. However, this group carried a muff 'surprise': neither more nor less than the war criminal Gerhard Bohne, in charge of the Reich Euthanasia Program.

Draganovic also collaborated with the Argentine government to allow the arrival in this country of the technical people that German designer Kurt Tank needed for the aircraft factory of Cordoba. They also received passports of the Red Cross and were housed in the nun convent of Centocelle until take a plane in the Air Fleet Merchant of Argentina bound for Buenos Aires. (Out of curiosity, we say that those refugees who were hiding in religious convents did, mostly disguised as nuns. So much so that in several convents one can prove a sudden increase in the number of sisters, many with serious hormonal problems judging by the noise of his voice and the gestures, as well as his vello facial.) However, this group carried a muff "surprise": neither more nor less than the war criminal Gerhard Bohne, in charge of the Reich euthanasia program.

So a whole gallery of sinister characters, from Pavelic to Adolf Eichmann, got their tickets to Argentina through the Holy See In the Pavelic case, Draganovic made ​​an exception giving him a Red Cross passport and personally accompaning him to Buenos Aires close to a large group of former Ustashis.

Among those who escaped were also some few genuine war heroes weren't persecuted for their extraordinary zeal on the battlefield, as Colonel Hans Rudel who in the commands of his Stuka bomber destroyed over five hundred Soviet tanks and sank several boats. He lost a leg in combat, but that wasn't deterrent to keep fighting until the end of the war. Rudel was wanted by the Soviet Union and appeared in Bariloche (Argentina) where he immediately became known for his great qualities as a skier.


Others hadn't a glorious past as Dr. Kari Vaernet, famous for 'experiment' sessions with homosexuals in the concentration camp of Buchenwald, where, among other things, he dedicated during a season for castration of Gauss to replace your testicles by metal balls. Arriving to Argentina, the homophobic doctor went to work for the Ministry of Health held a consultation on the Uriart street in Buenos Aires (Argentina Capital). The second-ranking Nazis, without the resources nor the necessary contacts to enjoy the quirky 'travel agency' which unofficially worked at St. Jerome, had to act on their own to escape for many countries as Spain, Syria, Egypt, USA, United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada and Australia. In total it's estimated that no less than thirty thousand fugitives avoided the action of justice.

The U.S. Secret Services have always suspected the Nazis have obtained the passports from Vatican, that allowed them to settle in their gold retreat in South American previously paid for a very high amount. [34] On the other hand, not even this whole money ended up in the coffers of the Church. Declassified documents of U.S. State Department in 1998 indicate the priest Draganovic enriched personally with this "charity operation," charging large money amounts to those whom he provided the false documents.

U.S. intelligence services have dubbed the escape corridor the Vatican used for Nazi and former Ustashi flee from Justice of "ratline", [35] a nautical term that refers to the ratlines, 'horizontal strings related to shrouds, half a meter away from each other that serves as steps for seamanship to climb and perform maneuvers on top of the masts'. [36]

As it was said, the last part of the boat just sinks when the vessel sinks entirely. The use of this term to describe the operations were conducted and the networks established for the redemption of some of the most bloody murderers of European History couldn't have been more suitable.

Argentine documents show that in 1946 Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini contacted at least twice with the ambassador of Argentina to the Holy See. On the second occasion, delivered to him the Pope's concern with "all Catholics prevented from returning to their homes because of the likelihood of being subject to political persecution", proposing the development of a joint action plan between Argentina and the Holy See. None of these documents has got specific references to deleting the plane of responsible for war crimes.

Other important character of this plot was the Austrian Bishop Alois Hudal who in 1948 wrote to Juan Domingo Peron asking him five thousand visas for German and Austrian soldiers. In an anecdote during Christmas celebration in 1947, Hudal told a group of about two hundred Nazi fugitives hiding under his protection at the Vatican: "You can trust the police won't find you, it's not the first time people hide in the catacombs of Rome."

The mechanism for obtaining visas worked simply: the Department of Immigration in Argentina gave permission of landing under an assumed name to the requestor, with which the fugitive got from the Red Cross a "travel document." Therefore, he no longer had to request a visa in the Argentine Consulate and to submit himself a "certification of identity" to get to Buenos Aires. In 1949, Juan Peron decided not even to worry about appearances and approved an amnesty whereby those who filed a false name in the country could regain their real identity. Due to Peron, the most wanted fugitives in the world were able to start a new life free of worries. Among these war criminals were Erich Priebke member of SS in Rome, accused of killing 335 people in the Fosse Ardeatine, who escaped under a false name and regained his identity in 1949 living as a model citizen in Bariloche until one team of a North American television discovered him in 1995, precipitating his extradition to Italy .

During this process Licio Gelli stepped in, one of the key characters of wrost Vatican admissible managements in the second half of the Twentieth Century. Gelli had the ideal profile to participate of the Nazi export operation because he wan't an official and an intermediary in the Hermann Goering SS division, ans he had multiple contacts with the Mafia, very useful to take a man from Italy mocking the curiosity of the authorities or providing them all kind of false documentation. [37] There's evidence Gelli could act in this time as an intermediary between Italians elements of the ratlines and the ODESSA and Die Spinne (The Spider), two underground organizations of former Nazis who managed the escape and the replacement of these war criminals.

Just one example: in only one day in June 1949, the Pope received in separate audiences five high-ranking American Generals.


Meanwhile, in Croatia, Stepinac had convened a conference of bishops in Zagreb which resulted in the proclamation of a pastoral letter in which the bishops urged the population to rise up with arms against the new Government. The Ustashis who had not been executed or who had not fled the country gathered in the field forming a terrorist organization with the eloquent name of "Crusaders". The flag of the organization was consecrated in the chapel of Stepinac. Many priests and monks were part of the organization, as well as armed militants performing Intelligence services and communication. Much of the information collected by these cleric spies was held by the U.S. secret services through the Vatican. [38]

The collaboration between Americans and Ustasha rebels it's not surprising if we consider these people expected a North American intervention in Croatia. Stepinac himself was convinced that sooner or later this would happen. [39] Maybe Stepinac had reason to think so. In the end, for those days, Pius XII had a very close relationship with the U.S. American military leadership. Just one example: in one day in June 1949 the Pope received in separate audiences five U.S. generals first line.

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


[23]. Manhattan, Avro, The Vatican Holocaust, op. cit.

[24]. Goñi, Uki, La auténtica Odessa. La fuga nazi a la Argentina de Perón, Paidós, Barcelona, 2002. The Real Odessa.

[25]. "Supreme Allied HQ to 6th and 12th Army Groups. Apprehension of Croat Quislings", June 5, 1945. Declassified document from the U.S. Army.

[26]. Aarons, Mark, op. cit.

[27]. U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps. Detachment in Rome. September 12, 1947. case number 5650-A.

[28]. Dorril, Stephen, MI6; Inside the Covert Worid of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service, Touchstone, New York, 2000.

[29]. "Where is Croatian gold? Vatican sources accuse the U.S. of historical superficiality." Zenit News Agency, June 5, 1998.

[30]. Loftus, John; Aarons, Mark; The Secret War against the Jews: How Western Espionage Betrayed the jewish People, St. Martin's Griffin, New York, 1997.

[31]. Headden, Susan, Hawkins, Daña e Rest, Jason, "A vow oí silence", U. S. News and Worid Report, March 30, 1998.

[32]. Cockburn, Alexander; St. Clair, Jeffrey; Without: The CIA, Drugs and the Press, Verso, Londres, 1998.

[33]. Phayer, John Michael; The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930-1965, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 2000.

[34]. "Rome Área Allied Command to the CIC", August 8, 1945. Declassified document from the U.S. Army.

[35]. Aarons, Mark; Loftus, John; "Ratlines". William Heinemann, Londres, 1991.

[36]. "The Fate of the Wartime Ustashi Treasure", U.S. Department of State report. June 1988.

[37]. Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy.

[38]. Yailop, David, op. cit.

[39]. Manhattan, Avro, The Vatican Holocaust, op. cit.

[40]. New Statesman and Nation. London, October 26, 1946.

More Photos of Ustasha atrocities and other massacres in the Balkans (attention, very graphic):
Link1 Link2 Link3

An observation: in the early parts of this text Roberto Muehlenkamp made ​​an interesting comment about a Serbian historian Milán Bulajic and the number of deaths of the Holocaust in the Balkans. You can read the discussion here. The link about Bulajic is here.

As a result, I've reread the entire text of the Chapter 5 of this book, who I've thought sensationalist though his general text about the Ustasha atrocities contains the essence of the method of massacre, and I've seen there are several errors in the text. Precisely for this reason I was brooding to translate the third and last part of it because looking for more sources on the massacre in the Balkans, I've found more detailed and serious sources such as texts of other Serbian Historian called Dusan Batakovic (Dušan T. Bataković) over the period of the Ustasha government and the Independent State of Croatia (NDH).

The text of Dusan Batakovic (he's a Diplomat and Historian) is infinitely superior than this "The Ustasha and Vatican's Silence", but most of his texts are in French and there's a translation to Portuguese about his text on Ustasha [link1, link2, link3] that I did some time ago.

Therefore I'll make a post pointing errors of this text, also citing the book Balkan Holocausts?: Serbian and Croatian Victim Centered Propaganda and the War in Yugoslavia (Edition by David Bruce MacDonald) who reports all political dispute over genocide with both sides and about mistakes of historian M. Bulajic (who R. Muehlenkamp mentioned in the link above), especially after the fragmentation of the former Yugoslavia and the war between Serbs and Croatian in the nineties.

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