Copyright © Feral Tribune 1997
January 13, 1997
Slaughter in Peace
Slaughter in Peace
The only mistake Pavelic made was that he allowed that the then Croatian state disappear, said Dominican priest Vjekoslav Lasic (Novi List, 12/30/96) from the altar of the Wounded Jesus church, in the heart of Zagreb city, at 1 Jelacic Square. Therefore:
- It is not a "mistake" that Pavelic for ten years in emigration under fascist patronage, prepared his Ustashe to, "once the orders arrive", take the power and follow mottoes which were preponderant in "Editorials" in the magazine Ustase signed by Poglavnik: ...Ustashe won't refrain from killing, because when the order to spill blood is issued, rivers of blood will flow... therefore, every Ustasa is waiting for an order to attack the enemy, to butcher and destroy... the most important factors will be dedication, guns, bombs and sharp knives of Croat Ustashe, who will clear and cut all that is rotten from the healthy Croat body... and then, let the world observe murdered and burned corpses of traitors... A KNIFE, A GUN, A BOMB and EXPLOSIVES, these are our idols... But Ustashe will turn even a drop of blood into spurts and rivers of blood, because the blood of enemies will flow in rivers and bombs will scatter their bones like dust. That is correct, for the liberation of the homeland and the Croat people, for the establishment of the Croatian national freedom and independent Croatian state all means are justified, even the most horrendous ones, because the great and sacred goal makes every, even the most horrendous means sacred...
Those who drink blood of the Croat people should be slaughtered, so that their evil never reappears among the Croats (see monthly magazine Ustasha, issues for February, July, October and November of 1932); somewhat later in the Nacela Ustaskog Pokreta [Principles of the Ustashe Movement] (1934), he gave the basis for the future racial laws and the fascist organization of the state inspired by the fascist totalitarian system.
- Consequently, it also isn't a "mistake" that Pavelic, without delay, in the first month of his rule sent out Dido Kvaternik, Mijo Babic and Maks Luburic to start the implementation of his ideas by shooting 196 Serbs in Gudovac near Bjelovar (4/27/41), mass slaughter (Luburic) of about 400 Serbs in Blagaj near Slunj (May 8 and 9, 1941), mass murder of 260 Serbs, Jews and Croatian Communists in Prekopa near Glina (May 12, 1941), and continued in the same manner with more intensity on many known and unknown killing fields all over Hercegovina, Dalmatinska Zagora, Lika, Kordun and Banija; then he established 26 concentration camps in Croatia and Bosnia in which, based on racial laws, all Croatian and Bosnian Gypsies were exterminated; about 26,000 Jews and tens of thousands of Serbs, as well as several thousands of "unsuitable" Croats also perished in those camps, either as hostages or the victims of military courts.
- It is not a "mistake" that Pavelic ceded Croatian coast to Italy and Medjimurje to Hungary, that he sent Croat soldiers to die at Stalingrad, that he declared war to United Kingdom and USA, that he put the economy of his state in the service of the fascist war machine.
According to father Lasic, none of that is a "mistake", which, strictly speaking, is almost true. Pavelic didn't "miss" to do anything, he faithfully executed all that he had planned in his program. A much better description for his actions is the word CRIME. And not any crime, but crimes (plural) of the worst kind: war crimes, genocidal crimes, and crimes against humanity. That is how they would be characterized by any competent court, since Nuremberg in 1946 until the Hague in 1997. Father Lasic called that criminal a "great" person, "personification of the Croatian national idea" which was established under "the sacred name of the leader of the Ustashe movement". He misused the church and broke its rules which state that the homily (sermon) at the commemorative mass must consist of excerpts from the Bible and their interpretation; instead father Lasic delivered a political speech celebrating a criminal.
Provincijal of the Croatian Dominican province, father Marinko Zadro, and until recently the president of the Croatian conference of the heads of religious orders, father Ljudevit Maracic "definitively do not support father Lasic, because his action constitutes the misuse of the church" and "such words shouldn't be spoken at the altar". In 1995, the Croatian conference of Bishops in the "letter regarding the 25 anniversary of the end of the W.W.II" very clearly condemned Ustashe movement because "actions of the then regime in Croatia, based on the ideology of racial and national discrimination, produced victims which cannot be justified by the defense, but must be condemned as crimes..."
Although such statements have been extremely rare so far, and the quoted letter is so far the only official church document of that kind, one could still say that the Catholic church in Croatia did its part. Here and there, pretty infrequently, condemnations and distancing from Ustashe ideology can be heard from certain opposition politicians, mostly those from SDP, but also some from HSLS, while other political parties have remained silent on this topic. Gentle distancing from the rehabilitation of Ustashe ideology can be heard from time to time from some (very few) leading officials of the ruling party, and even from the president himself, but most often followed by the comment that "such activities are harmful for Croatian image abroad," therefore with a certain dose of hypocrisy. At the same time those members of the ruling party who explicitly, or at least indirectly, in their appearances toy with the rehabilitation of NDH and the Ustashe movement are much more numerous. Among political parties represented in the parliament, these tendencies have explicitly and unconditionally been condemned by IDS [Istrian Democratic Parliament] only, and by two small parties without representation in the parliament, ASH [Socilaist Action for Croatia], SDU [Social Democratic Union], and several civic associations. I think that it is even more significant that Croatian honor has been protected in the recent years by some, rather lonely, but also well respected Croatian intellectuals and public workers, such as Ivan Supek, Zvonimir Berkovic, Luka Vincetic, Ivo Banac, Zvonimir Ivankovic Vonta, or Sime Balen.
At the same time, neo-Ustashe noise is becoming louder, almost totally drowning few critical voices. In seven years, starting with the rather shy relativization of Ustashe crimes, we've arrived bit by bit, to the first eulogy of a criminal and celebration of crime, from a church altar in the center of Zagreb and the Republic of Croatia. Father Lasic's sermon, officially supported by several parties from the extreme right, received far more publicity than both condemnations of the event by his superiors (which were published on page 15 in Glas Koncila on January 12, 1997). In spite of everything, a great majority of the Croatian public has been silent during the last seven years. What is the meaning of this new "Croatian silence" in which, each one in its own way, all leading opposition parties and all state, cultural and artistic Croatian institutions have participated?
I definitely know that the vast majority of them does not accept neo-Ustashe nor Ustashe movements. Then, why have they been silent so long? I think that the reasons are numerous and varied, interconnected, understandable, but definitely cannot be used as an excuse for inactivity any more. At first, there was an emotional reaction to 45 years of Communist and Serb-nationalist propaganda, which manipulated with the Ustashe crimes for their political and propaganda purposes while systematically denying communist post-war crimes. There was also some respect and understanding for the relatives and descendants of the victims from Bleiburg and Croatian Calvary, who were for a first time allowed to publicly express their feelings. Then, the opposition parties refrained from the condemnation of the Ustashe movement from fear that that may lead to a loss of some votes in an election and internal divisions. Then, there was the feeling that Croats should stay united during the war, or as long as the danger of a war persists.
All that was justified by the assessment that neo-Ustashe ideology had only a small number of supporters who will "blow off their steam" after a while, whose numbers will fall, who are not more numerous than extreme right supporters in developed Western European countries, and therefore harmless. Finally, there was a dominant theory, which I also supported for a while, that all that is a difficult and disgusting topic which shouldn't be part of the daily politics and contemporary life, but should be left to historians and objective interpretation by the historical sciences.
Unfortunately, the Ustashe are not any more only a historical topic. Deafening neo-Ustashe noise made that topic a part of contemporary Croatian political scene and turned it into a challenge to Croatian identity and its soul. Father Lasic's sermon from the altar of the Wounded Jesus church is the crown of that challenge. What does it mean today, after seven years of increasingly noisy neo-Ustashe clamour? What is the meaning of the silence of the overwhelming majority of the Croatian public in the face of eulogies to infamous crime and the greatest criminal in Croatian history? What is the meaning of almost unnoticeable reaction from the Croatian Catholic church? Have we become so jaded that we do not react to praise of crimes, have we become indifferent toward crime?
Indifference with respect to a crime, or even the promotion of crime, in the extreme is the same as the acceptance of a crime: lack of ethical sensibility and ethical intelligence. If it becomes a part of Croatian identity that will be fatal for the future of Croatia. In that, it doesn't really matter that it will "be harmful for the image of Croatia abroad". If we are incapable of condemning past crimes of our compatriots, we are incapable of condemning them today and in the future. We are incapable of condemning the crime in Ahmici, post-"Storm" Knin Krajina and Lika, and we lack credibility which would allow us to condemn the crimes in Ovcara and Srebrenica.