"CHRIST AND THE USTASHI MARCH TOGETHER"If the first ingredient of Ustashi super-nationalism was race, the second was religion. The two could hardly exist independently, having been so closely intertwined as to have become almost synonymous. The word Croat, in fact, signified Catholic, as much as, in Croatia, Catholic came to signify Croat. If this was useful to Ustashi racialism, it was no less beneficial to Catholicism, in so far as, once the theory had been established that Catholic meant Croat, the idea that Croatia had to be totally Catholic not only became firmly rooted: it was turned into one of the basic tenets of the new State.
The results of such an identification were portentous. For, while nationalism had embarked upon a policy of 100 per cent racialism, the Catholic Church had embarked upon an inevitable parallel policy of 100 per cent Catholicism. The two policies were in effect one single policy, the political authorities automatically furthering the religious interests of Catholicism, while the religious authorities furthered the political interests of Ustashi racialism.
The actual process of integrating the two into an inseparable organic, religio-political unit, not only was conducted by individual Catholics or Catholic organizations, like the Crusaders, or Catholic political leaders like Macek: it was promoted by the Catholic clergy prior to the birth of the Ustashi State. Catholic priests, in fact, vigorously preached Fascism before the Second World War. The Catholic Press, controlled by them, became Fascism's mightiest propaganda organ. In it they advocated the Fascist Corporate State, praised the Fascist Catholic dictators, and preached racial theories—e.g. the theory that the Croats were not of Slav descent, but were Gothic German. One of the founders of this race theory was a well-known Catholic priest, Kerubin Segvic, who as far back as 1931 wrote a book entitled, The Gothic Descendance of the Croats, with a view to creating racial odium against the Slavs, which was synonymous with "Orthodox." Fascist nations were hailed as glorious examples for the future Croatia. In its issue of April 3, 1938, for instance the Catholic daily, Hrvatska Straza, praised Fascist Hungary for "solving the social problem by accepting the main principle of the Christian Corporate State." The same paper, on March 2, 1938, greeted the Anschluss with: "Young Croatia for Anschluss."
The Catholic Press preached Catholic Nazism on the model of that planted in Slovakia by the Catholic Nazi dictator priest, Mgr. Tiso. The Zagreb Katolicki List, the organ of Archbishop Stepinac, in January, 1940, carried an article entitled "Catholicism and Slovakian National Socialism," which read in part:
In a modern state, which placed the interests of the people above all other considerations, the Church and the State must cooperate in order to avoid all conflicts and misunderstandings. Thus, in accordance with the teachings of Christ, the Church in Slovakia had already exerted itself to arrange a new life for the Slovakian people. The views of Dr. Tuka are fulfilled by the formation of a 'people's Slovakia, which has the approval of the President of the Republic, Mgr. Dr. Josip Tiso. In the National-Socialist system in Slovakia, the Church will not be persecuted. Persecutions will be used against the opponents of National-Socialism.
The achievements of Catholic Fascism were continually glorified in Hungary, in France under Catholic Petain, in Spain under Catholic Franco. The chief Catholic daily, Hrvatska Straza, the editor of which, Dr. Janko Shimrak, became a bishop under Pavelic, openly and consistently praised Hitler's successes in domestic and foreign policy. In the issue of March 12, 1938, Hitler's occupation of Austria was defended and praised. Later this paper hailed Hitler's successes in Czechoslovakia, Poland, and France. The Katolicki Tjednik, organ of Catholic Action, published under the direction of the Archbishop of Sarajevo, Dr. Ivan Saric, printed articles entitled "A New Order Must Come" (e.g. in issue No. 4, 1941), before Hitler attacked Yugoslavia.
The Catholic Press, by propagating Nazi-Ustashi ideas, played a tremendous role in conditioning the people to what eventually happened, reaching as it did people in all walks of life. Its influence was great, and helped to an enormous extent to represent Pavelic and the Ustashi as having been sent by God to the Croatian people. It became especially skillful in sowing the seeds of religious hatred towards the Serbs, racial hatred towards the Jews, and hatred for Yugoslavia. Immediately after the proclamation of the Independent State of Croatia it placed itself unreservedly at the disposal of the Ustashi, thus following the example of the Catholic clergy, who took an active part in helping the Ustashi, with weapons in their hands, in the disruption of the Yugoslav Kingdom.
At many points Catholic priests, and even Catholic friars, helped to form treacherous Ustashi armed bands with the precise objective of attacking the Yugoslav Army from the rear. Many of these clerics boasted openly of their military activities. The exploits of others who fell in battle were recalled in their obituaries.
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 to inform the officers and soldiers. Thus the news events found us prepared and enthusiastic. It was decided to disarm the officers from Serbia
The Ustashi paper, Hrvatski Narod, on 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 Greg and placed himself al the head of the struggle. A plan was even drawn to prevent the mobilization of the Yugoslav Army. Thus the historic day of April 10 was welcomed, and in the night between April 10 and 11 the Ustashi disarmed the local gendarmerie and captured the post office.
The Ustashi periodical, Za Dom, No. 1, of 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.
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." There is an endless list of such reports in the files of the War Crimes Commission.
Following the fall of Yugoslavia and the rise of the independent State of Croatia, the Catholic Press came all out for Pavelic and his Ustashi. Vjesnik Pocasne Straze Srca Isusova (The Courier of the Honourable Guards of Christ's Heart) contained, in issues Nos. 5 and 6, 1941, an article entitled, "The Banner of Croatia—the Heart of Christ," in which the "resurrection" of Croatia was compared to that of Christ:
In the early spring the Croatian people experienced their resurrection at the time of Christ's resurrection. The great son of the Croatian people returned and gave them their liberty and ancient rights. And this is also the work of God; the Lord did it all and that is why it is strange to our eyes.
Glasnik Biskupije Bosanske i Sremske (The Voice of the Bosnian and Srem Bishoprics), No. 13, of July 15, 1941, imitating Pope Pius XI, who had called Mussolini the man sent by Divine Providence, called Pavelic a man of Providence:
Holy is this year of the resurrection of the Independent State of Croatia. The gallant image of our chieftain appeared in the rainbow. It can and it must be said of him that his is a man of Providence.
Glasnik Sv. Ante (The Voice of Saint Anthony), in its issue of December 12, 1941, went further, declaring that the birth of the Independent State of Croatia was God's work:
The Croatians, who are mostly a Catholic people, consider such a great historical event as some fortunate accident, or as a stroke of luck. No, this is the work of God and Providence.
Even this was not enough. The Ustashi were compared to no one else but Christ. Witness the voice of the Crusader movement, Nedelja, which, in its issue of June 6, 1941, in an article entitled, "Christ and Croatia," declared the following:
Christ and the Ustashi and Christ and the Croatians march together through history. From the first day of its existence the Ustashi movement has been fighting for the victory of Christ's principles, for the victory of justice, freedom, and truth. Our Holy Saviour will help us in the future as he has done until now, that is why the new Ustashi Croatia will be Christ's, ours and no one else's.
Catholic leaders, priests, and indeed bishops were given positions in the Ustashi State. Immediately after Pavelic assumed power many priests were appointed to local and provincial administrative posts in the newly created Ustashi State. To mention only a few: the Catholic priest Ante Klaric Tepelun, from the village of Tramosnica, district of Gradacac, who in April, 1941, became an Ustashi tabornik, and took part in disarming the Yugoslav Army. 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 which capacity he organized the first Ustashi army unit in Gornji Vakuf.
Novi List, 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 Recica, District of Karlovac, was appointed to the post of Ustashi tabornik for the county of Recica. Dr. Dragutin Kamber, priest in Doboj, was appointed in April, 1941, to the post of Ustashi commandant for the District of Doboj, with all political and civil powers thus concentrated in his hands.
No. 34 of the same paper, dated July I, 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 tobornik for the district of Drvar; and priest Dragan Petranovic to the post of logornik in the camp of the district of Ogulin.
Catholic leaders directly under the orders of the Hierarchy were given the highest positions—e.g., the President of Crusaders, priest Dr. Felix Niedzielski, who was made Ustashi Vice-Governor of Bosnia during the first days of Pavelic regime. Another Catholic priest, Grga Peinovic, Director of the Crusaders, was made nothing less than President of the Ustashi Central Propaganda Office, as reported in Fledelja on August 10, 1941. 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 offices, which was indeed true.
A collection of Catholic newspapers issued in Ustashi Croatia, all showing Pavelic's portrait.
The press, including the Diocesan and Episcopal papers, all supported and praised the Ustashi, from the first to the last.
Besides the propagation of Nazi-Ustashi ideas, the Catholic press played a tremendous role in conditioning the Croatian people to the horrors that were eventually to occur once Croatia came into being. It represented the Pavelic Regime as the instrument of justice and the vengeance of God. It became especially skillful in sowing religious hatred against the Orthodox Serbs.
The official organ of the Archbishopric of Zagreb, Katolicki List, No. 16, 1941, declared that Ustashi Croatia had been created by an all powerful Providence. So did Glasnik St. Ante (The Voice of St. Anthony), December 12, 1941: "This is the work of Cod." The paper Nedelja, June 6, 1941, the organ of the Catholic Crusader movement, declared "Christ and the Ustashi march together."
The official organ of the Archbishopric of Zagreb, Kato-licki List, No. 16, 1941, declared that the independent State of Croatia had been created by an all-powerful Providence. The Catholic Church, it concluded, prayed God that the New Croatia should find its fulfillment. The same paper went farther, and soon afterwards published "The Principles of the Government of the Independent State of Croatia and of the Ustashi Movement," to acquaint its readers with the basic directives regulating the life of every individual in the new puppet State. These directives soon helped Pavelic to convert Croatia into a virtual concentration camp. Archbishop Stepinac, on April 28, 1941, issued a pastoral letter, in which he asked the clergy to respond without hesitation to his call that they take part in the exalted work of defending and improving the Independent State of Croatia, declaring that from then onwards in the "resurrected" Croatian State the Church would be able in complete freedom to preach "the invincible principles of eternal truth and justice." The pastoral letter, which was also published in Nedelja and Katolicki List on April 28, 1941, said the following:
Honourable brethren, there is not one among you who did not recently witness the most significant event in the life of the Croatian people among whom we act as herald of Christ's word. These are events that fulfilled the long-dreamed-of and desired ideal of our people.... You should, therefore, readily answer my call to do elevated work for the safeguarding and the progress of the Independent State of Croatia.... Prove yourselves, honourable brethren, and fulfill now your duty toward the young Independent State of Croatia.The pastoral letter was read in every Croatian parish. It was also read over the radio. The impression it had on the people, and especially on the clergy, was indicated by Father Peter Glavas, who, during his trial after liberation, said in his own defense: "The order given by Archbishop Stepinac to the people over the radio to fight for the Independent State of Croatia constituted a political directive to the clergy." Like any other priest, he had to obey.
The Ustashi section of the clergy, which had been active in terrorism even before the war, did not need this circular to tell them how to act. Yet many who until then had hesitated, after Stepinac's instructions accepted his directives and actively engaged in supporting the Ustashi. The Catholic clergy did not join the Ustashi merely to chant Latin hymns. They joined in order to carry out the Ustashi racial and religious terror programs.
When Pavelic returned from Italy to Zagreb, to assume leadership of the New Croatia, he stopped in the town of Ogulin, on April 13, 1941, where he conferred with one of his most fanatical lieutenants, the Ustashi Catholic priest Canon Ivan Mikan. On that same day, in a public speech, Canon Mikan foretold the shape of things to come: "There will be purges," shouted priest Mikan. "Yes, there will be purges." On the same evening, not far from that region, the first Ustashi punitive expedition attacked individual Serbs in several villages.
Were these massacres committed only by the followers of Pavelic? They were often promoted and carried out by Catholic priests claiming to be the followers of Christ and the representatives of a Church trumpeting to the four winds that she preached universal love. It will suffice for us to mention only a few. The first Ustashi commandant in the District of Udbina was the Franciscan priest, Mate Mogus, who had organized the Ustashi militia and disarmed Yugoslav troops. At a meeting in Udbina on June 13, 1941, he gave the following homily: "Look, people, at these 16 brave Ustashi, who have 16,000 bullets and who will kill 16,000 Serbs, after which we will divide among us in a brotherly manner the Mutilic and Krbava fields"—a speech which was the signal for the beginning of the slaughter of Serbs in the district of Udbina.
In Dvor na Uni, priest Anton Djuric kept a dairy of his activities as an Ustashi functionary. The diary shows that on his orders the Ustashi plundered and burned the village of Segestin, where 150 Serbs were murdered, and that in the village of Goricka he arrested 117 people, who were sent to a concentration camp, where most of them were killed.
A group of Franciscan priests, who tortured and finally killed twenty-five Serbs in the village of Kasle, took photographs of their victims. In the village of Tramosnica, priest Ante Klaric became the first Ustashi commissar, the personally led Ustashi units in attacks on Serbian villages. He organized the Ustashi militia and, according to witnesses, spoke from the pulpit as follows:"
You are old women and you should put on skirts, for you have not yet killed a single Serb. We have no weapons and no knives and we should forge them out of old scythes and sickles, so that you can cut the throats of Serbs whenever you see them.Priest Bozo Simlesa, in the village of Listani, was one of the most active members of the Ustashi. He held the post of chief of the district of Livno. During the slaughter of the Serbs in the county of Listani he told the people from the pulpit that the time had arrived to exterminate all Serbs living in Croatia. He personally organized the Ustashi militia and obtained arms for them. On July 27, 1941, he held a meeting in the village, and when he was informed that all Serbian men had been murdered and that women and children were to be killed that night, he told them not to wait for the night, for twenty-four hours had already passed since the chief had issued his order that not a single Serb must be left alive in Croatia.
The Catholic Dean of Stolac, in Herzegovina, priest Marko Zovko, was responsible for the murder of 200 persons, whose bodies were thrown into a ditch in a field in Vidovo. Franciscan Mijo Cujic, of Duvno, personally gave instructions for the massacre of Serbs in the villages of Prisoje and Vrila, where not one person was allowed to remain alive.Were these the abominable deeds of some few individuals maddened by religious and racial fanaticism? Indeed they were not. They were an integral part of the official policy of the Catholic Church, which, screened behind the mantle of the Independent State, had inspired and promoted all the horrors which soaked the historical land of Croatia in a sea of blood.