This document assembling facts in the case of Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac of Yugoslavia has been prepared because the arrest and trial of the Archbishop are still being used in the United States in a campaign of misrepresentation against the Federal Peoples Republic of Yugoslavia. This campaign, accusing Yugoslavia of religious persecution—which does not exist in my country and which is specifically outlawed by the Constitution—has gone to considerable lengths. Petitions for which thousands of names have been obtained have been submitted to the White House and to the Department of State. Resolutions have been introduced in the Congress. In the face of such organized and continuing attacks I have felt compelled, in justice to the government and people of Yugoslavia, to make this material available in English. It shows that Archbishop Stepinac was tried and convicted solely because of the crimes in which he engaged against his own nation—the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, later the Federal Peoples Republic of Yugoslavia—and against his own countrymen.
Americans who may have been misinformed on the point should know also that millions of patriotic citizens of Yugoslavia are Catholics, enjoying full freedom of worship today under constitutional guarantees. Having firsthand knowledge of the role played by Archbishop Stepinac during the war, they do not identify their religion with the secular political course in support of Hitler and Mussolini which he chose to follow.
Sava N. Kosanovic, Ambassador of the Federal Peoples Republic of Yugoslavia.
When Adolf Hitler, during the execution of his plan to conquer Europe and the world, attacked the Kingdom of Yugoslavia on April 6, 1941, it became immediately apparent that the German Wehrmacht had at its command powerful, treacherous groups within the Yugoslav state. The Yugoslav Army, engaged in a deadly struggle against the overwhelmingly superior forces of the Nazi invaders, had to contend from the start with military bands working for the enemy in its rear. These were the so-called Ustashi terroristic detachments which, in close cooperation with and sometimes under the direct leadership of those Roman Catholic priests who were members of the Ustashi, threatened the communication lines of the fighting Yugoslav Army, and attacked and disarmed isolated Army units.
Suffering under the blows of the German Wehrmacht, and stabbed in the back by the Ustashi, the Yugoslav Army resisted heroically until it was broken after two weeks of fighting.
After the defeat of the Yugoslav Army, parts of the country were occupied by the Wehrmacht, and other parts were given over to the Ustashi, who set up a Nazi puppet state, which they called the Independent State of Croatia. From the beginning it became apparent that in this new puppet state, power rested entirely in the hands of the Ustashi and their collaborators in the higher and lower Catholic clergy.
A wave of terror soon swept the newly organized Independent State of Croatia. Of the 2,000,000 Serbs in Croatia, the Ustashi program, now put into action, called for one third to be driven from their homes back to Serbia, another third to be murdered and the rest forced, under threat of torture and death, to convert to the Roman faith. Of the 80,000 Jews in Yugoslavia, 60,000 were killed, the great majority in Croatia. As will be seen in following chapters, based on documentary evidence, these almost incredible atrocities were committed with the full knowledge and active support of one part of the Roman hierarchy in Croatia. Archbishop Stepinac was the responsible head of that hierarchy.
Investigation by the Yugoslav War Crimes Commission established that Archbishop Stepinac had played a leading part in the conspiracy that led to the conquest and breakdown of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. It was furthermore established that Archbishop Stepinac played a role in governing the Nazi puppet Croatian state, that many members of his clergy participated actively in atrocities and mass murders, and, finally, that they collaborated with the enemy down to the last day of the Nazi rule, and continued after the liberation to conspire against the newly created Federal Peoples Republic of Yugoslavia.
When Archbishop Stepinac was arrested and brought to trial in September, 1946, one argument of the critics ran along these lines: Why did the Yugoslav Government not arrest Archbishop Stepinac immediately after liberation if his offences were so grave? If they really had the evidence, why did they wait so long?
The answer is that the Yugoslav Government, far from being motivated by vengeful feelings, made a serious effort to avoid the necessity of taking court action against Archbishop Stepinac. It endeavored earnestly and patiently to reach a modus vivendi making possible a settlement of the Stepinac case.
When the War Crimes investigation produced evidence of the Archbishop's complicity in the barbarous regime of Ante Pavelic in puppet Croatia, the Yugoslav Government informed the Vatican of the nature and volume of this evidence and asked that Stepinac be withdrawn. What happened was described by Marshal Tito in an address at Zagreb on October 31, 1946:
When the Pope's representative to our Government, Bishop Hurley, paid me his first visit I raised the question of Stepinac. ‘Have him transferred from Yugoslavia,’ I said, for otherwise we shall be obliged to place him under arrest.’ I warned Bishop Hurley of the course we had to follow. I discussed the matter with him in detail. I acquainted him with Stepinac's many hostile acts toward our country. I gave him a file of documentary evidence of the Archbishop's crimes.
We waited four months without receiving any reply. Then the authorities arrested Stepinac and he was brought to trial, in the same manner as any other individual who works against the people.”
To understand fully the role Archbishop Stepinac played during the crucial pre-war years, as well as during the war and after the liberation of Yugoslavia, it is necessary to remember the centuries-old struggle which the South Slavic peoples, the Serbs, Croats, Slovenes and Macedonians carried on for their independence. The Slavic peoples of the Balkans have a glorious tradition as fierce and stubborn fighters for their cultural and religious heritage as well as for national independence. During 500 years of Turkish rule over the Balkans, the Serbs formed the very core of the resistance movement. When, during the last century, the old Ottoman Empire declined, the Balkan peoples gained their national independence. The great powers carved the Balkans into smaller states which subsequently became pawns in the intrigues of the European powers.
Imperial Germany especially, together with the old Habsburg Empire, followed a program aimed at dominating the Balkans. This old Pan-German program for conquest, known as the Berlin-Bagdad Railroad Project, threatened vital points and communication lines of the British Empire and, in addition, brought tremendous danger to Russia. It was this German-Austrian aggressive policy against the Balkans, especially against Serbia, that finally provoked World War I.
One has to remember that at that time the German General Staff, with the help of the Austro-Hungarian regime, was using every conspiratorial device to stir up hate among the peoples of the Balkans. Following the old directive “divide and conquer,” Germany and Austria were particularly eager to exploit and capitalize on religious differences between the Serbs and Croats. The Serbs, by tradition, belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Croats and Slovenes to the Roman Catholic faith.
The defeat of the central powers in 1918 brought great changes to the Balkans. The old Habsburg Empire was dissolved and the South Slavs, the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, formed the new Kingdom of Yugoslavia on the basis of their close racial and linguistic affinities. It was the task of this new United Slavic state to block another attempt of German aggression against the Balkans and the Near East.
But in this it did not succeed. For the young nation made numerous mistakes. One was too great a centralization under Serbian hegemony (a mistake that the federative structure of the Federal Peoples Republic of Yugoslavia has avoided). This resulted, among other things, in a corresponding separatist sentiment in Croatia. And cleverly and persistently throughout the between-wars period the Germans used for their own ends every divisive inheritance from the past, every legislative and administrative mistake of the new Kingdom of Yugoslavia which tended to keep alive these divisive feelings.
With the resurrection of Germany's might under Adolf Hitler, German-inspired intrigues and conspiracies in the Balkans became ever bolder, and such terroristic organizations as the Ustashi in Croatia were found to be willing instruments in the plans of Mussolini and the German General Staff.
After Hitler's rise the peace-loving European nations became alarmed about the new German threat to the post-Versailles order, and the Yugoslav Government then declared itself willing to make commitments towards a strong defensive alliance. In 1934 preliminary discussions for such an alliance between France and other powers were far advanced. In October of that year King Alexander of Yugoslavia visited France. In Marseilles he was welcomed by French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou, who at that time was working on a new European security program. As the two men, King Alexander and Foreign Minister Barthou, rode through the streets of Marseilles they were struck down suddenly by bullets from well-posted assassins; both men were killed.
Investigation uncovered an international plot. The details were of so sensational and delicate a nature that the French government, for fear of repercussions abroad, found it expedient to make only perhaps 10 per cent of the political background story publicly known. The investigation established the fact that the murder ring, members of the Croat terrorist Ustashi organization, had been supplied with money, weapons and false passports by Nazi authorities in Munich, by Mussolini, and by Horthy's Hungary.
The leader of the murder gang, Ante Pavelic, who had lived in Italy since 1929, was first arrested and then set free by Mussolini. Pavelic was sentenced to death, in absentia, by a French court. It will be shown later, through documents, that Ante Pavelic and the Ustashi were from the beginning in close contact with some representatives of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy as well as with a section of the lower clergy in Croatia. Evidence will be produced that shows how the Ustashi and one part of the Catholic clergy conspired in the overthrow of the Yugoslav government by secret collaboration with the Nazis. It will be demonstrated, furthermore, how both the Ustashi and a section of the Roman Hierarchy became partners in Axis conquests and established their own Independent State of Croatia, a ruthless terroristic puppet regime whose political and administrative apparatus was participated in by the Ustashi and parts of the Roman Hierarchy.
When Hitler attacked the Kingdom of Yugoslavia on April 6, 1941, the Ustashi, including many Catholic priests who were among its members, directed active fighting in the rear of the regular Yugoslav army. This well-organized Fifth Column helped the German High Command in the conquest of Yugoslavia. After the defeat of the Yugoslav Army this combine, the Ustashi and fascist elements of the clergy, launched one of the most horrible massacres in recorded history. Of the two million Serbs who for centuries had lived peacefully among the Croats, hundreds of thousands were driven from their villages and towns and their property stolen. Hundreds of thousands of Serbs were tortured and slaughtered in and out of concentration camps, and the rest were “converted” by force to the Roman faith. Torture and death were also the lot of Croatians who refused to support the quisling cause, and of the Jews.
The man under whose spiritual blessing and active support these monstrous crimes were committed was Aloysius Stepinac, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Zagreb.
After the liberation of Yugoslavia the Government appointed a commission to investigate the crimes committed by the Axis invaders, by the Ustashi and by other collaborators. This commission paid special attention to the question of how the high treason against the Kingdom of Yugoslavia had been prepared. The well-timed stab in the back made it obvious from the beginning that there probably had been close cooperation between the German Wehrmacht and the fifth column. Careful investigation established the fact that from the time of the revival of the Ustashi terrorist organization in the late twenties the closest ties had existed between the Ustashi and sections of both the lower and higher Catholic clergy. The investigating commission found abundant evidence that the plot against Yugoslavia had been thoroughly prepared over a long period by Hitler and Mussolini, by their Ustashi agents and by influential representatives of the Roman Hierarchy in Yugoslavia.
An overwhelming part of the evidence establishing the fact that treason and conspiracy were participated in by the Roman Hierarchy and parts of the lower clergy came from the culprits themselves. The investigating commission found thousands of printed reports, along with articles in both the official ecclesiastical press and the priest-controlled Catholic newspapers, which gave an impressive picture of the manner in which the crime was prepared.
One great error of supporters of the Independent State of Croatia was an over-confident belief that it would endure at least as long as Hitler's thousand-year Reich. This confidence explains why they did not hesitate to see their plans and schemes exposed in print. Indeed, they boasted publicly, some of the priests, about the conspiracy and about their close connections with the Ustashi during the period when this organization was outlawed in pre-war Yugoslavia. After the puppet state had been created they felt free to describe in jubilant articles how zealously members of the clergy had worked for Der Tag, how the monasteries had been used as clandestine headquarters for the illegal Ustashi movement, how they had been in constant contact with the plotters abroad, how they had organized the monks and the Catholic youth as “Crusaders” for the coming uprising, and how they had endangered in many different ways the very existence of pre-war Yugoslavia.
Evidence found by the investigating commission gave a clear picture of the organizational structure of the conspiracy. The whole plot was directed by responsible members of the Roman Hierarchy. Practical execution of the plan was channeled through “Catholic Action” and its various affiliated organizations such as the “Great Brotherhood of Crusaders,” the academic society Domagoj,the Catholic student association Mahnich, the “Great Sisterhood of Crusaders,” and many others.
The presidents and members of the directing bodies of these organizations were appointed by Archbishop Stepinac. They were in most cases well-known priests or secretly sworn members of the Ustashi. All these forces were mobilized for concerted action with the openly professed aim of spreading fascist ideology. This propaganda persuaded the faithful that it would be a good deed, in the highest interests of Croatia and the Catholic Church, to kill or convert the Serbs and to exterminate the Jews. How boldly this propaganda was published in the responsible Catholic press will be shown.
That “Catholic Action” was the organizing power for the Ustashi uprising was confirmed in a speech by Ante Pavelic a few weeks after he had taken over leadership of the regime in Croatia. The Pavelic organ “Hrvatski Narod” in its issue of June 24, 1941, printed a speech which Pavelic delivered when he received the delegates of “Catholic Action”. Pavelic was quoted as saying: “In our political struggle it is certain that Catholic Action played an important role.” The editor of the Katolicki Tjednik (Catholic Weekly) Monsignor Kralik praised, in the issue of April 27, 1941, the accomplishments of “Catholic Action,” of which he was an influential leader, in organizing the Crusader Youth. He emphasized that the educational program was in accordance with the political program of the Ustashi and concluded his article by stating that in the future the sacrifices of the Crusaders should be even greater, and should be in deeds rather than in words alone.
The main outlets for the political work of “Catholic Action” were the “Brotherhood and Sisterhood of the Crusaders.” The “Great Brotherhood of Crusaders” was composed of about 540 societies with some 30,000 members, while the “Great Sisterhood of Crusaders” had about 452 societies with 18,935 members. Under the cover of alleged religious work, these organizations played an important role in inculcating the spirit of fascism and religious and race hatreds on the youth. Members were indoctrinated with the Ustashi ideas of nationalistic chauvinism. At meetings of these organizations Pavelic and the Ustashi were hailed as liberators of the Croat people, Hitler and Mussolini were praised as friends and allies, hatred toward Serbs and Jews was spread and Yugoslavia, Great Britain, the United States and the USSR were attacked.
The Crusaders had their own “sport courses” for military drill. The Crusader weekly Nedelja (Sunday) of July 11, 1943, printed an article telling of the military courses the Crusaders had at their camps, where they were training officers for future Ustashi formations. The same publication on April 27, 1941, had written about this military training in the field.
The periodical Krizar (Crusader) of February, 1942, wrote that the Crusaders organization served the Croatian youth from 1929 to 1934 as a place of refuge in the difficult struggle, and that a large number of young men learned for the first time in the dark Crusader halls about the Ustashi precursors, Starcevic and Kvaternik, about Dr. Ante Pavelic and the Lika uprising—an uprising against the Kingdom of Yugoslavia ten years before World War II. Regular meetings were held in Pozega in 1940—before the attack on Yugoslavia—under the fictitious name of “Mary's Congregation” in the Crusaders' home. Leaflets were brought from Zagreb, then mimeographed and distributed. These meetings were attended by Priest Franjo Pipinic, who later helped organize the disarming of the Yugoslav Army.
A wealth of evidence makes it clear that the Brotherhood and the Sisterhood of the Crusaders were used as blinds for illegal activities in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia of the outlawed Ustashi movement. When the Kingdom of Yugoslavia collapsed many members of the Crusaders and affiliated organizations assumed important functions in the Ustashi state. From the first day of war the Crusaders put themselves solidly behind Ante Pavelic. They greeted with extraordinary enthusiasm the formation of the quisling state. The Catholic periodical Nedelja of April 27, 1941, No. 15, carried an article on page 2 entitled “The Crusaders Extend Greetings to The Croatian State and Its Poglavnik (Fuehrer)”. This article reads, in part, as follows:
The Great Brotherhood of the Crusaders has sent through the Ustashi army chaplain, Dr. Ivo Guberina, and through Msgrs. Cvitanovic and Vitezic, the following greetings to the Poglavnik:
’Our rejoicing and happiness is indescribable over the fact, to greet in the name of the Great Brotherhood of the Crusaders and of the entire Crusader organization our Poglavnik, the liberator of the Croatian people, the founder and chief of the Independent State of Croatia. Raised in the spirit of radical Catholicism, which knows no compromises so far as principles are concerned, they never knew what it meant to give in and abandon any part of the program of Croatian nationalism.
Chieftain! The Crusaders greet you and express to you their great love and devotion. May the Almighty bestow on you and on our state His blessings in abundance, and the Crusaders will continue to build immortal souls for God and unbreakable characters for the Croatian people. God is alive! For the Fatherland we are ready!‘
The Crusader organization was centrally directed from Zagreb. Archbishop Stepinac personally confirmed the choice of its leaders. For president of the organization Stepinac selected the widely-known fascist Dr. Feliks Niedzielski, and as first curate and vice-president he appointed Msgr. Milan Beluhan. After establishment of the Independent State of Croatia, Dr. Niedzielski became a high Ustashi official in Bosnia.
What the actual work of this purportedly religious organization was in pre-war Yugoslavia is indicated by the words of its chief curate and vice-president, Msgr. Beluhan. Together with a group of Crusader officers he visited Pavelic on June 1, 1941, and on that occasion made the following statement:
Chieftain! The Croat men and women Crusaders have begun their struggle for the souls of Croat youth in a time when the last Serbian tyranny has fallen upon the Croat people. While you, our chief, shook the foundations of bloody Yugoslavia with your hard work, sacrifice and persevering struggle from abroad, we visited the villages and towns of all parts of Yugoslavia and aroused faith and strengthened hope in the souls of our youth.
This address, with its admission of the extended activities of the Crusaders for the Ustashi cause, illustrates the tie between the plotters abroad and the political arm of a certain section of the Roman Hierarchy, the Crusaders. Archbishop Stepinac was well acquainted with the activities of the Crusaders. After the annual convention of the organization in 1942, he received its leaders and, according to a report published in Nedelja of October 18, 1942, told them: “The history of the Crusader organization is well known to me. Let today's convention be an inspiration for your work and at the same time proof of the widespread and active nature of your organization.”
The Ustashi character of the Crusaders became very clear in the days of the German-Italian attack on Yugoslavia. At that period of great danger for Yugoslavia's continued existence, members of the Crusaders attacked and wherever possible disarmed units of the hard pressed Yugoslav Army, and simultaneously formed the nuclei of the first Ustashi military units. In the horrible Ustashi massacres which began a little later the Crusaders were outstanding for their cruelty.
A similar role in the dissemination of Ustashi propaganda in pre-war Yugoslavia was played by other religious organizations, among which Marijina Kongregacija(Congregation of Mary) and Sveucilisno Katolicko drustvo Domagoj (The Domagoj Catholic University Society) were most prominent. These Catholic organizations all carried on their activities within the framework of Catholic Action, which was directed by Archbishop Stepinac.
The War Crimes Commission established the fact that the first meeting of the Ustashi, early in 1929 (twelve years before the attack on Yugoslavia), was held in the canon's house (kurija), across the street from the Archbishop's residence on the Kaptol in Zagreb. When the Ustashi came to power in 1941 a plaque was placed, with solemn ceremony, on the building in memory of that meeting. The War Crimes Commission found also ample evidence that in pre-war Yugoslavia many churches and monasteries had served as secret meeting places for the Ustashi. To cite but a few, meetings of the leaders of the illegal Ustashi movement in Yugoslavia and of Pavelic's delegates from Italy and Germany were held in the Franciscan monastery in Cuntic. One of the most important centers for the dissemination of Ustashi propaganda was the Franciscan monastery on Siroki Brijeg in Hercegovina, where, according to Hrvatski Narod of June 4, 1941, the Franciscan cleric Dr. Radoslav Glavas founded a secret Ustashi organization among high school boys.
Priests held positions of great trust in the illegal Ustashi organization; many took advantage of their privileges as priests to perform courier service between the various Ustashi organizations, and others even organized secret Ustashi groups. The priest of the parish of Ogulin, Honorary Canon Ivan Mikan, was the main organizer of illegal Ustashi activity in Ogulin. The Franciscan Dr. Peter Berkovic, head priest in Drnis, founded several Ustashi organizations in his district and for years held office as a trusted Ustashi official for the entire Drnis district.
In a petition to the Ministry of Agriculture, dated May 7, 1942, con. No. 638, Dr. Berkovic recounted the following services rendered to the Ustashi organization:
During 14 years that I spent as priest in Drnis, my parish house was in a true sense of the word an Ustashi home. It was the meeting place of all Ustashi, not only for those from our region but also for all those who came there to organize the Ustashi movement. Ustashi leaflets were received there, and were distributed from there. Before the uprising I was an Ustashi confidante and a state commissioner, and I took in my hands all civil and military powers, and with the Ustashi I disarmed one entire division.
The services rendered by Dr. Berkovic to the Ustashi movement are also seen from the following document issued by the Ustashi Tabor in Drnis on July 25, 1941:
Affidavit by which this Ustashi Tabor testifies that Fra Peter Dr. Berkovic, priest in Drnis, is a good and honest Croatian, and that he has never sinned against the interests and honor of the Croatian people but has fearlessly spent 14 years fighting for the Ustashi movement. Until April 10, 1941, he was Ustashi confidante for the Drnis region. On April 11, 1941, he was appointed Ustashi confidante for the entire district of Knin. In that capacity he took in his hands all civil and military powers and together with the Ustashi disarmed an entire division of the Yugoslav Army.
Secret meetings of Ustashi leaders were held for years in the parish house of Vilim Cecelja, priest from Kustosija near Zagreb, according to the paper “Hrvatski Narod,” No. 67, 1941. One of those attending these meetings was the leader of the illegal Ustashi organization in all Yugoslavia, Slavko Kvaternik, later Supreme Commander of the military forces of quisling Ante Pavelic. Others included Dr. Mladen Lorkovic, later Minister of Foreign Affairs in Pavelic's government; Dr. Mile Budak, later Minister of Education and Pavelic's deputy.
After the retreat of the Ustashi from Zagreb, documents found in their files listed the names of people proposed for decoration as members of the Ustashi organization, prior to October, 1934, that is before the Marseilles assassination of King Alexander. Among others these documents named the following priests: Vilim Cecelja, Dr. Radoslav Glavas, Ivan Mikan, Dr. Franjo Binicki, Canon Dr. Tomo Seferovic, Ivan Jakovic, Franciscan Didak Ceric, Franciscan Mladen Barbaric, etc.
Mention has been made of the fact that many Catholic priests took advantage of the full freedom of movement allowed them to act as couriers for the illegal Ustashi organization. Others went still further and, on their official trips abroad, especially to the Vatican on church business, carried messages from the Ustashi in Yugoslavia to Ante Pavelic in Italy. Branimir Zupancic, a priest from Bosnian Gradiska, on a trip through Italy, met with Pavelic on December 7, 1938. Zupancic told the investigating authorities that an Italian priest made it possible for him to meet Ante Pavelic in the sacristy of his church. This statement is confirmed by an article in Hrvatski Narod of August 30, 1941, describing an interview in which Zupancic gave details of this meeting. When this priest got into trouble later with the Yugoslav police, Archbishop Stepinac intervened in his behalf.
That one section of the Catholic clergy abused its privileges to maintain contacts between the Ustashi exiles in Italy and the fatherland was admitted in Katolicki List on May 7, 1941. In the column “Church News” an audience Pavelic granted to a committee of the assembly of the Zagreb Spiritual Youth is described. Pavelic told this group, according to Katolicki List, that during “his most difficult days he received the greatest amount of help and understanding from .the young monks, especially from Hercegovina. They came when no one else could bring him news.”
The highest priests in the Catholic Hierarchy engaged in the same kind of activities. The Archbishop of Sarajevo, Dr. Ivan Saric, visited Ustashi leaders in South America and wrote openly of this in the Katolicki Tjednik of May 18, 1941. During one of his trips to the Vatican, in 1938, Archbishop Saric met Pavelic, at that time under death sentences imposed by both French and Yugoslav courts, in the Basilica of St. Peter's and later wrote a poem, “Ode to the Chieftain”, about this encounter. The poem was printed in the Ustashi newspaper Nova Hrvatska (New Croatia) on December 25, 1941; in Katolicki Tjednik (Catholic Weekly), and in various other Catholic publications. It starts:
There is no room for doubt that part of the Catholic clergy had systematically prepared for the coming uprising. Their professed plan was to destroy Yugoslavia and all possibility of Serbo-Croat unity and to create Independent Croatia as a fascist state. From a wealth of evidence, a few samples may be sufficient to illustrate how their thinking ran.
In the Basilica of St. Peter
In the eternal city the poet saw you,
Your embrace was dear to me
As our home is to all of us.
Hrvatski Narod of April 25, 1941, wrote that young priests in Dubrovnik propagated the Croatian nationalist program, calling for complete separation from Serbia, as early as 1925. Nova Hrvatska of June 1, 1943, wrote that the Canon in Ogulin, Ivan Mikan, was in closest cooperation with the future minister, Dr. Lovro Susic, and that he was preparing the spirit of the people for the establishment of Croatian independence. As an uncompromising nationalist, he welcomed Pavelic's Independent Croatia enthusiastically and proudly.
In the organ of the Archbishopric of Vrhbosna, Nos. 3 and 4 for March and April, 1942, Dr. Dragutin Kamber, Catholic priest, stated editorially that it was “superfluous to emphasize the fact that the Croatian Roman Catholic priests are profoundly happy in having their independent state; their enormous majority belonged to that spearhead which was preparing the arrival of Independent Croatia.” He concluded that “Words are too weak to describe the feeling with which they welcomed their state.”
Thus did the editor of an official diocese publication declare openly that the majority of the Roman clergy welcomed puppet Croatia as “their state.”
The Germans and Italians launched their surprise attack on Yugoslavia on April 6, 1941. Simultaneously the Ustashi, at many points in Croatia, formed treacherous armed bands which attacked isolated Yugoslav Army groups from the rear. The Ustashi bands had the task of helping the invading Axis enemy by disrupting lines of communication in their own country, and by sabotaging the mobilization of the Yugoslav Army. In wartime such crimes are punished by every nation with summary death.
ARMED CATHOLIC CLERGY IN UPRISING
Many Catholic priests boasted openly of their treacherous activities in the Catholic papers; the exploits of others were recalled later when their obituaries were published.
The Ustashi paper Hrvatski Narod of July 4, 1941, hailed the Franciscan priest Dr. Radoslav Glavas as a great organizer of the Ustashi. The article said in part:
A young and energetic Franciscan, Dr. Radoslav Glavas, came to Siroki Brijeg and placed himself at the head of the struggle. A plan was even drawn to prevent the mobilization of the Yugoslav Army. Thus the historic day of April 10th was welcomed, and in the night between April 10th and 11th the Ustashi disarmed the local gendarmerie and captured the post office.
Hrvatski Narod, No. 251, of June 4, 1944, page 3, carried a death notice, written by priest Eugen Beluhan, of Chaplain Ivan Miletic, which in describing his Ustashi activities asserted:
As a priest he assisted in the disruption of the Yugoslav Army during the revolution.
The Catholic weekly Nedelja,in its issue of June 22, 1941, describes in an article entitled “The Last Convulsion of Yugoslavia on the Island of Pag” the manner in which the priest on that island took part in disarming the Yugoslav Army:
Late at night younger Croatians would follow the development of events. The Reverend Stipanov in Vlasici on Pag would also listen to the news and ride on his bicycle to inform the officer, and soldiers. Thus the new events found us prepared and enthusiastic. It was decided to disarm the officers from Serbia and to send the soldiers to their homes. About midnight Lieutenant Orsanic came to my home and asked me to take a carbine in my hands and find eight youths more for the purpose of capturing Serbian officers, gendarmes and treasury agents.
The Ustashi periodical Za Dom No. 1, April, 1941, adds:
Another priest, joining forces with two customs guards, captured two generals and 40 officers, while a Franciscan brother, with the help of a number of youths, disarmed an entire Serbian company.
Pavelic's Hrvatski Narod of July 25, 1944, published a death notice about Priest Don Ilija Tomas which read in part:
He accepted with joy in his heart the Ustashi ideas, and as far back as 1937 we see him as a sworn Ustashi in the din of work, exertion and struggle. “The war started, but the Croatians did not want to wage war against their old allies the Germans; they are throwing down arms and Don Ilija collects them. He works together with his neighbor from the other side of Neretva, the priest Don Juro Vrdoljak-Biscevic—and the two of them like two giants rise to the defense of their people against the Serbian plundering bands. It seems that it is not known that as early as April 8, 1941, they proclaimed the Independent State of Croatia! “Transport is interrupted, because the transport center, Capljinac, is held by two Ustashi, two Catholic priests, Don Ilija Tomas, priest in Klepci, and Don Juraj Vrdoljak-Biscevic, priest in Studenac. They disarmed whatever army units tried to escape through Capljinac. They even captured a cannon, while Croatian soldiers came voluntarily to serve as reinforcements. Thus, the two of them, cut off from the world and surrounded by the Serbian army, held on amid unceasing dangers and battles until April 20th, when the Germans came to their assistance. Shortly after that, Don Ilija was appointed Ustashi Commissioner for the entire region.
There is an endless list of such reports in the files of the War Crimes Commission. There was, for instance, Father Emanuel Rajich, priest in Gornji Vakuf, who participated in disarming the Yugoslav Army, organized Ustashi rule in Gornji Vakuf and was appointed Ustashi tabornik. In that capacity he organized the first Ustashi army unit in Gornji Vakuf. There was the Catholic priest Ante Klaric Tepeluh from the village of Tramosnica, district of Gradacac, who in April, 1941, became an Ustashi tabornik and took part in disarming the Yugoslav Army. There was Father Karlo Grbavac, priest in the district of Duvno, together with Mato Kapulica the Ustashi emigre who returned from Italy to fake an active part in disarming the Yugoslav Army. After the formation of the quisling state Father Grbavac became Ustashi confidante in that parish. The active participation of one part of the Catholic clergy in the betrayal of Yugoslavia could have been possible only on the basis of instructions from highest church authorities. On April 11, 1941, the day after the traitor [Slavko] Kvaternik and the Germany Army had entered the Croatian capital, the Zagreb radio station instructed the people to welcome the German Army and “to seek answers to all questions from the Catholic parish offices, where instructions will be given about the future work.” Thus from the first day of Nazi occupation the Catholic parishes were used as political propaganda agencies for the invaders and their Ustashi quislings.
PRIESTS BECOME ADMINISTRATORS IN THE NAZI PUPPET STATE
Immediately after Pavelic and his circle assumed power, with the backing of the Nazi fascist conquerors, many priests were appointed to local and provincial administrative posts in the newly created Ustashi state. Others became members of the highest state institutions, as a later chapter will show. The paper of the Catholic Crusaders, Nedelja, in its issue of August 10, 1941, reported that priest Grga Peinovic, a director of the “Brotherhood of the Crusaders,” was appointed president of the Ustashi Central Propaganda Office. In an article entitled “Crusaders in the Independent State of Croatia,” the same paper pointed to the fact that many persons trained in the Crusader organization were now occupying high positions in the Ustashi state. The president of the Crusaders, priest Dr. Felix Niedzielski, was made Ustashi Vice-Governor of Bosnia during the first days of the Pavelic regime. Novi List, No. 34, of July 1, 1941, carried an order of the government appointing priest Didak Coric to the post of tabornik in Jaska; Ante Djuric, priest in the village of Divusa, to the post of logornik for the District of Drvar; and priest Dragan Petranovic to the post of pobocnik (adjutant) in the camp for the District of Ogulin. The same newspaper, No. 54, in 1941, reported the appointment of priest Stjepan Lukic to the post of logorni pobocnik (camp adjutant) of the Zepce camp. Cecelja Martin, priest in Recice, District of Karlovac, was appointed to the post of Ustashi tabornik for the county of Recice. Dr. Dragutin Kamber, priest in Doboj, was appointed in April, 1941, to the post of Ustashi confidante for the District of Doboj, with all political and civil power thus concentrated in his hands. These are but a few examples from hundreds of cases in which priests, from the very beginning, made common cause with the Ustashi and obtained their rewards.
‘THERE WILL BE PURGES’
The Ustashi began putting their criminal program into execution immediately upon establishment of the Independent State of Croatia. After the Yugoslav Army was disarmed the Ustashi and the Crusaders started the killing of Serbs, Jews and anti-fascist Croats, and again many Roman Catholic priests played an active role in the mass slaughter of innocent people. When the traitor Pavelic returned from Italy to Zagreb to assume leadership in the puppet state he stopped off in the town of Ogulin on April 13, 1941. There he was greeted by one of the most fanatical Ustashi disciples, the canon Ivan Mikan. In a public meeting this Ustashi priest acclaimed Pavelic and incited the people to hatred against the Serbs and the Jews. In his speech he proclaimed “There will be purges,” and he threatened that “the dogs (the Serbs) will be driven across the Drina.” Priest Ivan Mikan must already have had knowledge of the program Pavelic intended to execute during the coming months in the puppet state of Croatia.
‘GOD HAS GIVEN US ANTE PAVELIC AND ADOLF HITLER’
From the pulpit and in their own press, sections of both higher and lower Catholic clergy propagated Nazi-fascist ideas under the cloak of religious and moral teachings. They sang the praises of Germany and Italy and simultaneously castigated the democratic Western powers. They told the faithful that Hitler was a crusader for the Lord and that Pavelic and the Ustashi had keen sent by God to the Croatian people; abundant evidence of this appears in two late chapters. A few examples may suffice at this point. Priest Dr. Felix Niedzielski, who was appointed by Archbishop Stepinac a leader of the Crusader organizations, wrote of Ante Pavelic:
In his political farsightedness he did not seek contacts with politicians, but with great men, with the leader of Italy and with the leader of the German people … God who dissects the destiny of nations and controls the hearts of Kings has given us Dr. Ante Pavelic and moved the leader of a friendly and allied people, Adolf Hitler, to use his victorious troops to disperse our oppressors and enable us to create the Independent State of Croatia. Glory be to God, our gratitude to Adolf Hitler and infinite love and loyalty to chief Dr. Ante Pavelic!