The following text is the author’s foreword to the volume Genocide in Satellite Croatia, 1941-1945. A Record of Racial and Religious Persecutions and Massacres. The American Institute for Balkan Affairs, 1961.
by Edmond Paris
One of the most disastrous results of the First World War was the disintegration of that liberal and tolerant spirit which civilized nations of the twentieth century were supposed to have acquired. The great conflict completely destroyed, along with other catastrophic consequences, any such hope. Exaggerated nationalism, fascism and communism, as well as political and religious fanaticism, paved the way for the Second World War, thus bringing society down to a lower level of moral civilization, characterized by an incredible intolerance which was thought to have vanished with the Middle Ages.
In Mein Kampf, Hitler stressed his favorite theme of pan-Germanism, and succeeded in swaying public opinion by blinding it with his pseudo-scientific arguments, based on delirious ethnology of the pretended superiority of the German race. Presumably this gave them a natural right to rule over Europe, if not over the entire world, while other nations, above all the Slavs, must work for their overlords just as the slaves had done in times gone by. As for the Jews, they could never be assimilated and were therefore doomed to death.
The great powers were incredibly deaf to these insane ideas. As they grew, they developed their denouement until they eventually took seed in foreign countries, notably in Croatia, where a similar doctrine, though on a smaller scale, had flourished eighty years earlier under Ante Starcevic, a Croatian politician who might be considered the father of racism.
Such an extreme ideology caused the frightful ravages, during the years 1941-1945, in the satellite state of Croatia under the government of Croatian fascists, known as the Ustashi, supported by the Axis powers, as well as by the Croatian Catholic hierarchy, with the knowledge of the Vatican.
In order to justify his policy of extermination, the Sultan, Abdual Hamid, was known to say: “The way to get rid of the Armenian question is to get rid of the Armenians.”
This same maxim was adopted by the Croatian nationalists and clericals concerning the Serbian question in Croatia. According to the statutes of the Ustashi organization, “the name Ustashi was to be given to those who, in pre-war Yugoslavia, swore that by the destruction of the Yugoslav State he [they] helped in the extermination of Serbianism and the Orthodox Church.” (Nova Hrvatska, May 4, 1941.)
The collusion of the Croatian fascist government (or the Ustashi), and the Croatian Catholic hierarchy seems to have been inspired, under these tragic circumstances, by an anachronistic fanaticism.
It was with reason that the Serbian Orthodox Bishop, Dr. Nikolaj Velimirovic, so well known to the Anglo-Saxon world, compared what happened in Croatia, on such a large scale, with the darkest days of the Middle Ages. In an article published in 1954 by the ecclesiastical review Svecanik, the Bishop wrote:
“The Spanish Inquisition is noted for its atrocities. The head inquisitor, named by the Pope, was the Dominican Monk Thomas de Torquemada, who is remembered with such sinister bitterness. During the eighteen year period of his mandate, 10,220 persons were burned at the stake while 114,401 (according to the historian Motley) perished from hunger and torture in their prisons, which meant 125,000 people within a period of eighteen years.
This record is frightful enough, but the inquisition of the Serbian Orthodox was much more terrible, for 750,000 Serbs were killed in just four years.”
It would be difficult to find a parallel of such ferocious persecution in all history. Even the Duke of Albe, that sinister representative of the Spanish King (Philippe II), to the Low Countries, seemed quite moderate in comparison, having tortured and killed some 18,000 Protestants within six years.
In France, the massacre of St. Bartholomew on August 24, 1572, so justifiably stigmatized by the historians, resulted in only 100,000 victims.
The twentieth century, however, was doomed to witness in Europe, in the name of racial purity and religion such a genocide* as the past has never known, in which the Orthodox Serbs in Croatia barely escaped complete extermination. Yet this gigantic holocaust, which took place only a few years ago and which was witnessed by the present generation, has given rise to the most fantastic stories, accompanied by an intense propaganda that still continues a tireless effort to “cleanse” the guilty of any sense of responsibility. All kinds of printed matter, written under the guise of the “greatest objectivity,” and published largely by the Croatian and Vatican printing presses, is being circulated throughout the world.
In order to re-establish a truthful record concerning this tragedy, with its causes and the roles played by those who never hesitated profiting by this expansion of religious and national imperialism, while defying all humanity, I have undertaken the gathering of numerous testimonies printed by the Croatian and Catholic press during those tragic times. Here also are records of Yugoslav and foreign documents which appeared after the war, and testimonies, published in authentic sources, from some of the persecuted who escaped the inferno.
Unfortunately, I have been obliged to choose only a limited number of these significant texts which are numerous enough to fill an entire library.
But these selected testimonies will amply suffice as a record of actual events, and thus serve in throwing light upon those responsible for this drama.
It is difficult for the world to believe that a whole people could be doomed to extermination by a government and a religious hierarchy of the twentieth century, just because it happened to belong to another ethnical and racial group and which had inherited the Christianity of Byzantium rather than that of Rome.
May I add that far from desiring to stir up hard feelings, I have been motivated by the desire to divulge the truth concerning the frightful tragedy that took place, and to show what a shameful racial and religious recession has resulted from such fanaticism. May the disaster of the recent past serve as a lesson for future generations!
* . . . any acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such . . . a crime under international law, contrary to the spirit and aims of the United Nations and condemned by the civilized world.
Source: Foreword to the volume Edmond Paris, Genocide in Satellite Croatia, 1941-1945. A Record of Racial and Religious Persecutions and Massacres. The American Institute for Balkan Affairs, 1961