Washington Premiere of 70-Years-Suppressed WWII History – “KINGDOM OF YUGOSLAVIA DURING WORLD WAR II” by Miloslav Samardzic
Posted by Julia Gorin
It will be interesting to see whether or not the film, which is full of rare footage and photos, accounts for the Allied betrayal of Mihailovich and Yugoslavia with the little-known fact that, according to American WWII intelligence officer Lt. Col. Robert McDowell, the Vatican needed for the barbarity against Orthodox Serbs by Catholic Croatia — a Hitler-aligned WWII loser and therefore vulnerable to punishment — to be concealed. Meanwhile, Churchill needed the Vatican’s help in keeping the Irish in check. And so a deal was struck: Yugoslavia would be handed over to the Communists, who were adept at suppressing information; Croatia would be reabsorbed into Yugoslavia and therefore would lose without losing; and Tito — that big Partisan warrior against the Fascists, who nonetheless entertained close to 300 meetings with them — would be our man to help everyone forget who did what to whom, under the Commie banner of Brotherhood and Unity.
The film comes at an opportune time, given that the E.U.’s newest pride and joy, Croatia, has just appointed its first female president, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, of neo-Ustasha 1990s president Franjo Tudjman’s party. One of many NATO-approved “former” fascists, she promises to continue the fine Croatian tradition of minimizing the horrors that went on at Jasenovac. (So, America, let that be instructive in case we think that female “firsts” promise anything other than business-as-usual.)
A sampling of those horrors surfaced on Thursday in a Haaretz book review:
“A Hell Called Jasenovac” by Erwin Miller, translated from Croatian to Hebrew by Miriam Steiner-Aviezer. Yad Vashem Publications, 143 pages, 68 shekels.
…It is based on the articles, eyewitness accounts and memories of Erwin Miller, a young Jew from a small community in Croatia, who was imprisoned for four years, from age 17, in the hell that was named Jasenovac, the concentration camp that was considered “the Auschwitz of the Balkans.”
[We know, of course, that Jasenovac was more than the Auschwitz of the Balkans, it was the blueprint for Auschwitz, if one looks at the timeline.]
…It provides detailed description of the tortures and abuse and killings of Serbs, Roma and Jews by Croatians, who employed primitive, cruel, blood-curdling methods throughout most of the war years…Jasenovac existed from mid-1941 until the end of the war.
The purposes of this compound of camps were the imprisonment of Croatians who opposed the regime, and ethnic cleansing [extermination] of others. No less than 600,000 people were murdered there, the vast majority of them Serbs, as well as approximately 14,600 Roma…and between 20,000 and 25,000 Jews…
An international delegation eventually paid a two-hour visit to the camp, and a second delegation, from the Red Cross, visited in June 1944 — too late, of course – and without being shown any traces of the atrocities: the shattering of skulls with axes, the severing of body parts, beheadings and hanging of victims on rows of trees, slitting open of prisoners’ stomachs with a unique knife [the infamous “Serb cutter”], and disposal of their remains in the nearby river. The vast majority of killings were carried out with knives, hammers and axes…The rock bottom of the events…is the execution of a young man from [the author’s] town who tried to escape but failed due to heavy snow that upset his plans: he was skewered alive on a pole that pierced his naked body, which turned blue. The screams persisted until the young man finally died. All throughout, the prisoners stood there, weeping.
Another question pertains to the role of clergymen in the camp: the priest Miroslav Filipović-Majstorović, for instance, who with his own hands murdered dozens of prisoners, with a cruelty that was exceptional even at Jasenovac. He was in the habit of coming back from his killing sprees wearing his blood-stained priest’s cloak, the large cross around his neck, a dagger stuck in his belt and a spear in his hand. He would cut off dozens of victim’s ears with the dagger, and it was he who devised the unique knife with which the prisoners’ stomachs were sliced open…
I’m glad to see that Yad Vashem is the publisher of this book, because as recently as my 2007 visit there, throughout all the Holocaust exhibits, nowhere was the word Jasenovac — or even Ustasha or Croatia — to be found. Could 70 years of suppression finally be lifting?
Another book that’s just come out is by the above-mentioned WWII researcher and filmmaker Miloslav Samardzic. The book, which has the same name as the film, presents the basics about WWII Yugoslavia, facilitated with many photos. The volume benefits from Belgrade’s very recently opened archives, as well as from documents discovered only three or four years ago in Freiburg, Germany, about the real “Siege of Sarajevo.”
Thanks to the publisher of @PoglediFR (or facebook.com/PoglediWorld), Slobodan Kostadinovic, for getting this important work out there.