THE VATICAN SAVES THE CATHOLIC WAR CRIMINALS OF CROATIA—ROMAN MONASTERIES AS THEIR ASYLUMS—THE CROATIAN HOLOCAUST MINIMIZEDPope Pius XII (1939-1958), who during the Second World War had secretly changed sides, and had formulated a policy against World Communism, thus enlisting the help of the USA as soon as the Nazi edifice began to collapse, took steps to save many of those who had supported the Vatican before and during the War.
The top Nazis, who had fallen into the hands of the Allies, were brought before the Nuremberg Tribunal. Most of them were hanged. Several escaped. One of these was Franz Von Papen, an official war criminal. Pius XII pleaded for him behind the scene and Von Papen not only avoided death but after a few years was released. Von Papen was the leader of the Catholic Party of Germany. At one time he had been Chancellor. He had helped Hitler into power, to such an extent that after Hitler became head of Germany, he made Von Papen his Vice-Chancellor. Von Papen was one of the most prominent war criminals saved by the Vatican. The Catholic hierarchies of many countries did the same with minor officials.
Therefore, when the Catholic leaders of the Catholic State of Croatia fled the country, they looked to the Vatican as a refuge. Many of them were helped in their escape by the local clergy or by ordinary Catholics. As we have already seen, Ante Pavelic, after many difficulties, managed to reach Rome where he absconded wearing the habit of a monk. When he was given a false passport and identity he sailed for South America, where he became active with the open support of the church. Minor war criminals from Croatia were received with a special cordiality, since they had one clear distinction that most other war criminals had not. The Croat refugees had supported a regime which had been inspired and blessed by the Pope. A Catholic Croatian State which, had Hitler won the war, would have become the model Catholic State of the Balkan regions.
One of the principal Catholic personalities to help Hitler into power was Franz Von Papen, leader of the Catholic Party of Germany, friend of E. Pacelli, the Papal Nuncio to Munich, later Pope Pius XII.
When Chancellor of Germany, Von Papen tried to set up a Catholic-Nazi Coalition.
It was he who persuaded Von Hindenburg to ask Hitler to form a Government.
Once Hitler became first Chancellor of Nazi Germany, he made Von Papen his Vice-Chancellor (January 1933). Thus, the Leader of the German Catholic Party was second in command only to Hitler in Hitlerite Germany. Von Papen and Pacelli eventually negotiated for a Concordat in which Hitler pledged to support the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church to support Hitler (June 1933).
By the time the Allies began to search for them, they had been dispersed out of their reach. If many of them were still hidden somewhere in Europe, it was a certainty that they were absconded in Catholic institutions in various disguises and under the patronage of Catholic lay or religious authorities. The genocide in Croatia, although of immense horror, however, did not get the publicity which it should have. Its reality, while appreciated by the world at large, was soon minimized. Except for those who had been personally or collectively affected by it, it was almost forgotten by the postwar world. The cause for such oblivion was due to various factors. First among these was the general background of the postwar world which wished to forget the atrocities of the conflict. But more than that, the oblivion of the Croatian massacre was caused by the two most powerful lobbies in existence. That of the Jews and that of the Vatican. Each competed with the other in minimizing the
General B. Mirkovich with the author.
General Mirkovich played a paramount role during the Second World War, when Hitler was master of practically the whole of Europe and Great Britain stood alone.
Upon Yugoslavia signing a pact with Hitler (25 March 1941), thanks to which Yugoslavia sided with Nazi Germany, General Mirkovich only two days later (27 March) overthrew the Yugoslav Government and abrogated its treaty with Hitler thus bringing Yugoslavia to the side of beleaguered England.
Hitler's reaction was swift and ruthless. On the 6 April 1941 the Nazi Armies invaded Yugoslavia. The capital was bombed and the air force destroyed, thanks mainly to the treachery of Catholic Croat elements siding with the Nazis.
Many Catholic lay members and clergy, mostly Croats, helped the Nazis and fought against their own Government. This they did in order to set up an independent Catholic State of Croatia once Yugoslav unify had disintegrated. As a reward for their treachery, Hitler granted the Catholic Croats autonomy under Nazi tutelage. While the rest of Yugoslavia was turned into Nazi-occupied territory, Croatia became an independent Catholic State, where the Ustashi leader, Ante Pavelic, assisted by Archbishop Stepinac and blessed by Pope Pius Xll, initiated the terrible reign of Ustashi terror.
Left to right: Avro Manhattan, the author, and Dr. Milosh Sekulich. Dr. Sekulich was the first messenger charged by the Orthodox Church of Serbia with bringing the news of the horrors then still being committed by the Ustashi to the knowledge of the Allies.
Having managed to leave Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia (September 1941) he went to Turkey and then to Egypt. From there he made for the Sudan and then into the Congo, and finally to Lagos, Nigeria. After foiling an attempt to keep him there for the duration, he reached Portugal, followed by Ireland, finally reaching London.
There he handed over the Appeals of the Orthodox Church and the first full documentation of the Ustashi crimes and Catholic forcible conversions. After the war Dr. Sekulich, General Mirkovich and the author held a meeting of the surviving victims of the Ustashi in London, England (20 May 1951). Amongst them was a survivor whose whole family and relatives, totaling twenty-five, had been burned alive in a barn near the village of Zijimet. He broke down while recounting the terrible scene he had witnessed. (See text and footnotes.)
Hitler greets the Pope's Ambassador.
The Vatican had been a secret, and at times even an open, if cautious, supporter of Hitler. Hitler had been helped to power by the Catholic Leader of the German Catholic Party, Franz Von Papen. When Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, be made Catholic Von Papen Vice-Chancellor, second in command in Nazi Germany only to Hitler himself.
The German Catholic Party, in fact, by voting for Hitler in 1933, sent Hitler into power. Before and after then, the Vatican cooperated with the Nazis inside and outside Germany. The Catholic Hierarchy sent congratulatory greetings to Hitler and supported him fully. In this picture, there can be seen the Pope's Nuncio as he address" Hitler by saying (and of course he said it with the permission of the Pope himself), "I have not understood you for a long time. But I have worried for a long time. Today I understand you." This slogan was repeated for many years afterwards by the Vatican.
The poster above urge the people—that is Catholics—to vote for Hitler at the next general elections. Many Catholic clerics supported him during the war, such as Mgr. Tiso, as mentioned elsewhere in this book.
Many allies played into the Vatican's hand by helping the minimization of the Croatian atrocities. The most guilty were the American Catholic officers and officials, not to mention the State Department, already working with Pope Pius XII, in preparation for the oncoming Cold War.
The process of "minimization" of the Croatian atrocities, curiously enough, had started long before the end of the war. Indeed, soon after the atrocities were reported to the Allies. The present author, sad to relate, had been one of the earliest culprits. While broadcasting to the partisans of occupied Europe from a secret station in England, he came across a man who had escaped from occupied Europe specifically to report what was happening in Yugoslavia, or rather in that part of Yugoslavia which had not been occupied by Hitler, namely in Croatia. His name was Dr. M. Sekulich, a Serb and a member of the Orthodox Church of Serbia. Dr. Sekulich had managed to go into occupied Greece, thanks to the help of the Orthodox Church of Serbia which had recommended him to members of the Greek Orthodox Church. From there he went to Turkey, and from Turkey to Egypt. The Allies, according to him, then had helped him to sail to England. He had been a firm supporter of Mirkovich who had been accused of having collaborated with the Nazis. The British believed the accusation and then became partially responsible for the execution of Mirkovich by Tito. The accusation, it was later reported, had been made, between others, by Randolph Churchill, the son of Winston Churchill.