CATHOLIC CAMPAIGN OF DENIAL, SMEAR AND FALSIFICATIONRumours of the forcible conversions of the Ustashi massacres began to leak out of the Independent Catholic State of Croatia from its earliest stage. At first they received hardly any credence. That people should be killed for their religion could not be accepted in the middle of the 20th Century.
Yet the tales of individual witnesses, when added to the stories of Italian Fascist troops and even Nazi ones, could not be ignored forever. In view also of the fact that many described the Croatian horrors in their letters home, some having even taken "snaps" of the deeds.
When, finally, these could no longer be denied, counterrumors began to circulate to the effect that they were anti-Catholic propaganda, anti-Croat lies. Indeed, even "Gestapo-cooked" inventions. The Croats and their Catholic supporters accused the Nazis, the Communists, the Serbs, and even the Allies, in turn, of having started the atrocity stories.
Since evidence, however, went on accumulating, they were finally compelled to adopt three well defined tactics, which they carried out with simultaneous consistency: (a) the prevention of the arrival of fresh news; (b) the playing down or minimization, and even denial, of what had already become known; and (c) a smear campaign against all and sundry engaged upon telling about events in Croatia.
The intrigues, lies, plots and utter falsification directed to these ends became a grand strategy in themselves. We shall content ourselves with a few characteristic examples, since each is typical of the methods adopted from the very beginning.
In 1941 Dr. Milosh Sekulich, then in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia, was charged with a mission of a military, political and ecclesiastical nature: to take certain important documents to the Allied Headquarters in London. Those who sent him: General Mihailovich, leader of the Chetnik forces, and the Bishops of the Orthodox Church of Serbia.
Having accepted, he undertook the perilous journey, left Yugoslavia and successfully reached Istanbul, Turkey on 27th September, 1941. The exiled Yugoslav Government in London, having been informed of Dr. Sekulich's task, proposed on 6th October, 1941, on the initiative of their Premier, General Simovich, that the trip to London be financed by the Government. In view of the importance of the Doctor's mission, the Premier's motion was unanimously accepted.
Assured of the blessing of the Yugoslav Government, Dr. Sekulich then proceeded to Egypt. From Egypt he went to the Sudan, from there to the Congo, and finally to Lagos. It must be remembered that at this period the Fascist and Nazi armies were in control of North Africa and of the Mediterranean. Once in Lagos, however, he had to stop. The funds had been cut short. What had happened?
A Minister of the Yugoslav Government in charge of Finances, a devout Catholic Croat, had withdrawn the necessary money.
Unable to proceed further, Dr. Sekulich, with his documents, would have to remain in deepest Africa for "the duration." The evidence of the forcible conversions and Catholic massacres in this manner would never reach the Allies. Or, at least, would be greatly delayed.
The Croat's plan almost succeeded. But for the generosity of a Czechoslovak, the Manager of Bata in Lagos.
Dr. Sekulich brought to London two important documents: one hidden in the sole of his shoes and the other sewn into the lining of his suit. (A) A map of Mihailovich's Chetnik Headquarters, (B) two Appeals by the Serbian Orthodox Church, sent first to General Schroeder, Commander-in-Chief of the Nazi occupational forces in Serbia and then to General Dunkelmann, who had replaced General Schroeder. In these two appeals, the Serbian Orthodox Church asked the Nazi Generals to intervene with Ante Pavelic to stop the massacre of the Serbs. The documents began as follows:
"The persecutions of the Orthodox Serbs started from the very beginning of the existence of the Independent State of Croatia... Following the departure of the German and Italian occupying troops (in 1941) persecution, plunder, torture of the Serbs, which until then had been checked, turned into a veritable program, directed at a complete extermination of the Orthodox Serbian people. Catholic Croatian Minister, Dr. Lile Budak, Dr. Milovan Zanic, Dr. Mirko Puk, and the Ustashi leader Dr. Victor Gutic competed against each other to incite the Croatians against the Orthodox Serbs.
"As a result of such policy, thousands of Serbs were taken to concentration camps, Orthodox priests and their families were arrested, the birth, marriages and deaths registers of the Orthodox Church were handed over to the Catholic diocesan authorities, Orthodox Churches were destroyed, monasteries plundered, and the Serbian people forced to abandon their Orthodox religion and adopt Catholicism. We are sorry to have to relate that in all these misdeeds, the Catholic clergy also participated....
"We estimate that, so far (August 8th, 1941), the number of people killed surpasses 180,000....
"One of the first victims of Ustashi terror was Platon, Bishop of Banjaluka, together with the Orthodox Canon Dusan Subotich, of Bosanska Gradishka. They were murdered on the night of 5th-6th June, 1941, on the road between Banjaluka and Kotor Varos. Their bodies were thrown into the river Vrbanja....
"Canon Branko Dobosavljevic, of Vljuna district of Slunj, who was ordered by the Ustashi to dig the grave of his own son, a student.... In the end he, too, was tortured and killed on the same spot. Their killer: Ustashi Ivan Scheifer, a teacher....
"The Orthodox priest, Djordje Bogic, of Nasice, killed 18th June, 1941. Priest Bogic was tied to a tree and tortured. They first cut off his ears, nose and tongue, then pulled off his beard together with the skin. He died only after they ripped open his chest....
"Dusan Brankovic, a Member of Parliament, had his throat cut on 19th June, 1941....
"Dr. Veljko Torbica, who, before being killed near Gracica had his flesh cut into slices and salt put into his wounds....
"Milos Teslitch, a manufacturer of Sisak. His body was washed ashore from the river Sava with his eyes stubbed out, flesh cut off his face, and his whole body covered with knife slashes... The Ustashi photographed themselves with this disfigured body...."The Metropolitan of Zagreb, Dositej, Bishop Nikolaj of Mostar
On the left, Bogdanovic, executed by the Communists, beside Disan Brancovic. Brancovic, a Member of Parliament, was executed without even the presence of legality. Prior to his murder, the Ustashi amused themselves by slashing his chest with knives and ultimately scooped his eyes from their sockets. He was a close friend of Dr. Milos Sekulich (third from left), the man whom the Orthodox Church of Serbia charged with taking their appeals and documentation of the Ustashi atrocities to the Allies in London.
The Ustashi tortured and executed Members of Parliament, including Orthodox clergy and Bishops. Very often they seized their relatives, whom they sent to concentration camps or forced to become Catholics.
The Ustashi persecuted Orthodox personalities even after the collapse of Hitler and of Ustashi Croatia. Going so far even as to terrorize their fellow Croatians abroad by extorting "contributions" from them for the cause and by planting bombs in homes and public places, e.g., West Germany in 1964, Australia in 1965, and the USA in 1967.
One of the most horrifying documents of Ustashi brutality, Milos Teslitch, an Orthodox Serb industrialist, after having been burned in the town of Sisak. One Ustashi is holding the heart of the victim. The photograph was taken as a souvenir by an Ustashi who took part in the execution. Mainly responsible for this notorious crime was Catholic Faget.
The Ustashi did not hesitate to crucify their victims, e.g. Luka Avramovitch, former Member of Parliament, and his son, who were both crucified and then burned in their own home in Mliniste, in the district of Glamoc.
On the 20th August 1941 the Ustashi took all Orthodox Serbs to the woods of Koprivnica, between Bugojeo and Kupres, and killed the lot. Before the massacre, women had their breasts cut, arms and legs broken. Some men were blinded by way of having their eyes cut with knives.
During the night of 31st July/ Ist August 1941, in the town of Prijedor, the Ustashi massacred 1,400 people. The Nazis were so horrified that they occupied the town and compelled the Ustashi to leave.
The Appeals thereupon gave numerous accounts of the crimes committed until then by the Ustashi, some of which we have already examined. Faced by such circumstantial evidence, Catholic propagandists then engaged upon a campaign of vituperation and distortion. They began by saying that Dr. Sekulich was a Gestapo Agent. This, although as soon as he arrived in London Dr. Sekulich had been received by Mr. Leopold Amery, Minister of State for India and right-hand man of Winston Churchill, then British Premier.
At the same time they asserted that the "atrocity stories" were lies. Sava Kosanovich, Yugoslav Minister, declared from the USA "This is the work of Nazi and Fascist propaganda... to which some people have lent themselves as naive accomplices." (November 1941).
Others affirmed that only the Ustashi had committed the crimes. "I repudiate all attempts to associate the Croatian people with Pavelic and his Ustashi," said Catholic Croat Dr. Subavich, Governor of Croatia in exile, "or to accuse them of the massacres which are going on...if they are going on, " he ended. (15th November 1941).
In spite of denials and distortions, the fact remained that the Croatian atrocities had occurred. And no one knew about their authenticity better than the members of the Yugoslav Government. Should they lend their authoritative voice to the Appeals of the Serbian Orthodox Church?
There followed a serious crisis. Croat and Slovene members, all Catholics, threatened the Government with an irreparable split.
At this time it must not be forgotten that the paramount concern of the exiled Government was to remain united. That is, to keep together the three main nationalities—Serbs, Croats and Slovenes—which formed Yugoslavia, and so prevent the disintegration of the Kingdom, while at the same time offering a united front against Hitler.
To avoid a major split, the Government finally decided NOT to publish the news of the massacres. Indeed, to remain silent, and even to deny altogether that they had occurred.
Notwithstanding this decision, however, the news soon leaked out. The News Chronicle published an article about them (3rd January 1942), "180,000 die in Serb Terror. Mass murders of men, women and children are described by the Archbishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church in a document which has reached the Yugoslav Legation in London. It is the most ghastly record of bestiality yet compiled during the present war.... In the village of Korito, the Archbishops records, 163 peasants were tortured, tied into bundles of three and thrown into a pit. Some were found still alive, so the Ustashi threw in bombs to finish them off..."
"...266 bodies are consigned to this pit. Subsequently petrol was poured into it and set alight. More than 600 people were killed in and around Krupa between July 25th and 30th. Most of them had been cut to pieces with knives, axes and scythes. In one place, four Orthodox Serbs were crucified on the doors of their houses, tortured and finally killed with knives," reported the Daily Telegraph (3rd January 1942). "It is suggested that the names (of the criminals) should go before an international court of justice to be set up after the war..."
The Press releases created a sensation. There were protests on both sides of the Atlantic, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Catholics set in motion a by-focal campaign of minimization and defamation. One of its most successful promoters was an American Catholic left-winger, of Slovene origin, Louis Adamic. Adamic set out to prove to the American people that the massacres were not true. Or that, if true, they had been rigged. And, last but not least, that the "Chetnik Courier," as he labeled Dr. Sekulich, was a Nazi Agent.
Since Adamic's tactics were universally adopted during and after the war, it might be instructive to glance at them.According to him: "the atrocities were all propaganda...to stir up anti-Catholicism..." However, to give the impression of "impartiality," Adamic eventually explained, in a book entitled My Native Land, how he dealt with the issue.
"What could we do," he wrote, referring to the news of the Croatian horrors. "There just might be some basis for these horrible stories... (note his reluctant admission).... None of our little group in New York could get into occupied Yugoslavia to investigate the facts. The nearest we could get was London.
"The following resume includes facts learned and corroborated," he continued. "Large scale massacres of Serbians in Croatia occurred. But," he commented, "the total number of victims was not anywhere near 180,000 (the lowest figure previously reported). Reliable estimates from inside Yugoslavia were TENS OF THOUSANDS ONLY.
"Secondly, "the massacres were not perpetrated by the Croatian people, but by the Ustashi."
Thirdly, "Yes, Catholic priests converted the Orthodox," Adamic admitted, but "Catholic priests in Croatia accompanied Ustashi murder squads and 'converted' thousands of Orthodox Serbians to Catholicism under the threat of death from Ustashi guns, much as the Spanish padres accompanying the conquistadors 'converted' the Central and South American Indians."
Adamic could not deny the existence of photographs. But no one should believe them, he commented. Here are his words:
Photographs of the massacres existed. I saw them. Some were horrible beyond utterance. There were pictures of vast piles of bodies, of stacked up heads, tubfulls of necklaces of human eyes... But only a few looked authentic...it was clear that most of them were arranged by Gestapo photographers. In two or three pictures, men in the garb of Catholic priests were among Ustashi.After which Adamic drew his own conclusion:
ALL OR MOST of the pictures," he said, "were taken by Gestapo agents, who turned them over to Serbian Orthodox clergymen... The Orthodox priests reacted just as the Gestapo had expected... They must get this information to the Yugoslav Government in London... The Gestapo helped to arrange this. A Serbian messenger, Dr. Sekulich, got out of Axis-occupied Yugoslavia with a German and a Quisling passport...and gave the photographs, the report of a puppet bishop, and other documents - all Gestapo approved - to the Yugoslav diplomatic officials in Istanbul. The material was then rushed to London by the same courier, Sekulich... British authorities arrested him...as a Nazi Agent...but he was released on the insistence of the Yugoslav Government's inner clique...."The inner clique,'' continued Adamic, "relayed the Gestapo information about the massacres by diplomatic pouch to Fotich in Washington and elsewhere... It also submitted the story to the Bishop (sic) of Canterbury, who reacted just as the clique, and Hitler, desired...." and so on.
Adamic's tactics were too good to be ignored. He was the Catholic spearhead of another Catholic master truth-distorter who was to plague the USA a decade later, Senator Joseph McCarthy. As with Senator McCarthy, so also with Adamic the ponderous Catholic machinery was set in motion to promote the Adamic line.
The Catholic and Catholic-controlled Press and Radio of the U.S.A. and Allied Governments followed suit. Result: the atrocities were minimized, their genuineness questioned when not attributed to anti-Catholic propaganda, and finally they were forgotten. Had the Adamic lobby been confined to that, it would have been bad enough. But it succeeded in preventing the truth from reaching quarters with sufficient authority to prevent the prolongation of the situation, e.g. the President of the USA. For Adamic and his supporters had, indeed, managed to get the ear of President Roosevelt himself.
The insidiousness of the Adamic technique can be judged by the fact that Adamic was eventually to give account to Dr. Sekulich in court. Another wrongly accused victim: Winston Churchill. Adamic's book, Dinner at the White House, (to quote the Law Report, January 15th, 1947, High Court of Justice) "purported to be a description of a dinner party given at the White House by the late President Roosevelt, at which Mr. Winston Churchill, then Prime Minister, and the author were present. With this dinner as the starting point, the book proceeded to a criticism of both Mr. Churchill personally . . . and of his actions and supposed policy in relation to the war..."
In this book Mr. Adamic insinuated that "the motives of the British Policy in Greece were at least partly linked to the fact that Hambro's Bank of London, the chief British creditors of Greece (getting up to 17 per cent on their loans) had bailed Winston Churchill out of bankruptcy in 1912...."A grosser libel upon a public man holding the high position which Mr. Churchill held is difficult to conceive... But the reflection made upon his solvency is as nothing to the suggestion that in his capacity of Prime Minister he had allowed his private feelings and his private interests to sway and influence the policy and conduct of public affairs by the Government of which he was the head, and especially in regard to operations of war in which blood was shed." 
Churchill, like Sekulich, issued a writ for libel action. Four years later, in 1951, Mr. Adamic was shot dead in Milford, USA. The reality of the Catholic massacres and forcible conversions remained hazy to many people: not only because of their incredible nature, but also because of the Catholic lobby. The present author himself for some years remained skeptical about them. Used as he was to the saturation technique of war propaganda (being, at that time, employed in the Intelligence and Political Warfare of the Allies' war machine), even after meeting Dr. Sekulich he accepted the Croatian atrocities with skepticism. It took some years before finally he became convinced of their veracity. During this time he contacted Yugoslavs of all classes. From General Mirkovich, the man who caused the overthrow of the Yugoslav Government when the latter signed a pact with Hitler and thus brought his country into the Allies' camp (1941) to the humblest manual worker.
Not content with this, the author personally interrogated numerous Orthodox Serbs, and even Catholic Croats, who had been eyewitnesses of the Ustashi massacres. Indeed, he even met victims who had escaped them. In addition to which, on the 20th May 1951, Dr. Sekulich, General Mirkovich and he held a special meeting in London. This was attended by victims of the Ustashi residing in England, from whom further documentation was received. All authenticated with names, dates and places.A typical case was that related by a survivor of the Ustashi, Vojislav Zivanic (father, Duko; brother, Bogoljub), from Dukovsko, before witnesses and under oath, which we have already mentioned elsewhere. In June 1943 an Ustashi contingent, passing through the village of Zijimet, rounded up seventy-four villagers, put them into a shed, and set this on fire. Among the victims were the aunt of the eyewitness and her two children. This man lost twenty-five members of his family, all burned alive.
The author of this book was not the only doubter of the Croatian nightmare. Thousands of others shared his skepticism. The result of the insidious Catholic brainwashing propaganda, promoted by Catholics who had adopted Adamic's techniques. An early victim was an illustrious personage who, because of her status and that of her husband, gave added significance to the damage which the Catholic Adamic falsifications of history worked in responsible places. Not long after Mr. Winston Churchill took Adamic to Court (1947), the present author, at a private dinner party in Upper Brook Street, Mayfair, London, met Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the late American President. Since, at this period, the author was engaged upon his inquiries concerning the authenticity of the Ustashi, he asked Mrs. Roosevelt whether she had ever heard of them.
One of the worst, if not the worse, crimes of the war, was her prompt reply. I heard of them in the winter of 1941-2. Neither I nor my husband at first believed them to be true."I did not believe them either," the present author commented. I assumed them to be propaganda."
We thought the same, replied Mrs. Roosevelt. "The Catholic lobby was the most successful at the White House for years."
Had she ever heard of an American author, L. Adamic? She had. One of the many who had persuaded her husband that the atrocity stories from Croatia had been concocted by the Nazi propaganda machine. Could she explain why these Catholic atrocities were not as well known as the Nazi ones? Nazi Germany is no more," replied Mrs. Roosevelt. "The Catholic Church is still here with us. More powerful than ever. With her own Press and the World Press at her bidding. Anything published about the atrocities in the future will not be believed...."The present author thereupon told her he was writing a book about them."Your book might convince a few," she commented. "But what about the hundreds of millions already brainwashed by Catholic propaganda?" A few years later, in 1953, when the book was eventually published, although two editions were sold within weeks, no part of the British or American Press dared even to mention it.
The Yugoslav Government bought a few thousand copies, which were distributed free to the members of the House of Commons and House of Lords. Apart from a massive silence from both Houses, the only comments to reach the author were "utter nonsense," "rubbish" and "things of the past." And "even if true, why revive them now?" Mrs. Roosevelt had been right.
During 1942, however, news of the massacres finally reached the outside world. And while the majority of Catholics denied or minimized them, not a few condemned them, e.g. Dr. Ivan Chok, a Catholic Slovene, who on 15th March 1942 ended a broadcast by saying "the long arm of justice will surely reach the guilty ones, to punish them mercilessly."Another Slovene, Dr. Kuhar, a Catholic priest, in the Catholic Herald, 20th February 1942, and in the Catholic Times, 22nd February 1942, repudiated the Croatian methods of forcible conversion. "We as Catholics...have the right and have the duty to condemn with all our might any conversion to our faith by force," he wrote. Dr. Vilder, a Croat and a Catholic, during a broadcast condemned not only the atrocities but also those who tacitly encouraged them. "Orthodox people are being forcibly converted to Catholicism, and yet we do not hear one single word of protest from Archbishop Stepinac," he said (16th March 1942). Another Catholic Croat, Mr. Jerich, who escaped from Yugoslavia, issued a declaration jointly with a Dalmatian Croat, Mate Ruskovich (23rd July 1943): "We protest against mass massacre and forced Catholicization of Serbian Orthodox population...."
Catholics and non-Catholics alike not only protested, but addressed themselves to the Catholic authorities, both in Croatia and in Rome. Their protests, however, fell upon deaf ears. While Archbishop Stepinac and Pope Pius Xll went on giving ever more frequent thanks to a merciful God for the increasing number of forcible conversions, additional protesting voices began to be heard with mounting insistence within and without Croatia. The sneers of those who at first had regarded the news as a crude form of anti-Catholic propaganda, as reliable information began to leak out ceased and gave way, first to astonishment and then to horror. Appeals were made to Stepinac, the Pope and the Allies from all over Europe. Not only from Serbs, who had every reason for letting the world know, but also from Catholics, who could not accept such a bloody degradation of their religion. Some lodged horrified protests with Archbishop Stepinac, and, indeed, direct with the Vatican. Perhaps one of the most outstanding was that written by Prvislav Grizogono.
Grizogono was a Minister of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, a Croat, and a devout Catholic. Yet nothing could more eloquently indict his Church than his letter, the words of which were most carefully considered and scrupulously weighed:"
Your Grace: I write this to you as man to man, as a Christian to a Christian. Since the first day of the Independent Croatian State the Serbs have been massacred (in Gospich, Gudovac, Bos. Krajina, etc.) and this massacring has continued to this day.He follows with a detailed enumeration of some of the crimes perpetrated. After which he concludes:"
Why do I write this to you? Here is why: In all these unprecedented crimes, worse than pagan our Catholic Church has also participated in two ways. First, a large number of priests, clerics, friars and organized Catholic youth actively participated in all these crimes, but more terrible even Catholic priests became camp and group commanders, and as such ordered or tolerated the horrible tortures, murders and massacres of a baptized people. None of this could have been done without the permission of their Bishops, and if it was done, they should have been brought to the Ecclesiastical Court and unfrocked. Since this did not happen, then ostensibly the Bishops gave their consent by acquiescence at least. The Catholic Church has used all means to Catholicize forcibly the remaining Serbs... The province of Stem is covered with the leaflets of Bishop Aksamovitch, printed in his own printing shop at Djakovo. He calls upon the Serbs, through these leaflets, to save their lives and property, recommending the Catholic faith to them.' What will happen to us Croats if the impression is formed that we participated in all these crimes to the finish? Again it is the duty of the Church to raise its voice: first because it is a Church of Christ; second because it is powerful. I write to you this, about such terrible crimes, to save my soul, and I leave it to you to find a way to save yours.Not content with that, Dr. Grizogono dispatched another letter to the Catholic Archbishop of Belgrade, Dr. Ujchich, who seemed sympathetic to his request. In it the Catholic former Minister of Yugoslavia begged the Archbishop to ask the Pope to order the Catholic Hierarchy to stop the mounting Ustashi terror by the prompt enforcement of ecclesiastical discipline and, if necessary the use of papal authority. Did the Archbishop of Belgrade state that the persecutions were pure fabrications or, at least, were grossly exaggerated? The Archbishop denied nothing. In fact, by his reply he confirmed their authenticity. Indeed, he disclosed that he was fully conversant with what was then happening. Here is what he wrote to Dr. Grizogono:
Signed, Prvislav Grizogono, former Minister of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. At Zemun, February 8, 1941.
I thank you for your letter. The information about the massacres we have already received from many different sources. I have forwarded everything to the Vatican, and I believe that everything possible will be done. The outcries of the civilized world echoed as vainly in the halls of the Catholic Hierarchy as in those of the Vatican. The saintly Pope and the worthy Archbishop were mute. Their silence cost the lives of 850,000 men, women and children, the bloodiest religious massacre of the century. Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum—Such evil deeds could religion inspire.
1. The Times, London, January 16, 1947, Law Report, January 15, 1947, High Court of Justice.[Back]
2. Terror over Yugoslavia, Watts, London, 1953.[Back]
3. The authenticity of his reply was personally confirmed by Dr. Grizogono's son, Dr. N. Grizogono, a practicing Catholic. For further details, see Ally Betrayed, by David Martin, 1946. Archbishop Stepinac wrote to Pavelich about the conversions—More than once. See Mgr. Stepinac's long letter to Pavelich on the conversions, first translated and published by Hubert Butler.[Back]