In early 1944, Mirjana Babunovic-Dimitrijevic, a 22-year-old middle-class woman living in Sarajevo, was arrested by the Ustasa police. After she was arrested along with her mother and aunt, they were all deported to the Jasenovac concentration camp, for refusing to convert to Catholicism. All three women died there in late 1944.
These women were among more than 80,000 victims who perished at Jasenovac between 1941 and 1945. While we don’t know precisely how they died nor what happened during their short lives in the camp, two things are certain.
First, their deaths were the direct result of deliberate political decisions. Second, they died not because of anything they had done but because of what they were. They died because they were different in a state which not only criminalised difference but considered it legitimate grounds for extermination.
The Jasenovac death camp
To listen to Igor Vukic, a guest on the popular afternoon chat show ‘Dobar Dan Hrvatska’ (‘Good Day Croatia’) on Croatian Radio-Television, HRT last week, was to enter a parallel universe in which Jasenovac was not a concentration camp but rather a ‘labour and collection camp’ for opponents of the regime, in which inmates like Mirjana were offered opportunities to learn new professions and skills, given access to drama clubs and sporting facilities and treated with compassion by Ustasa guards.
The furore caused by the appearance of Vukic, a former journalist and the secretary of the Society for Research of the Threefold Jasenovac Camp, on a popular afternoon show, is, in some ways, hard to understand. After all, Vukic and other revisionists have been making the rounds of television shows for years, promoting their theories.
Yes, it’s true there was something slightly shocking about how normalised the set up was: the hosts even thoughtfully plugged the society’s book about Jasenovac to viewers at the end of the segment.
But leave aside the prime-time kitsch, and the episode only seems outrageous if you ignore the past 25 years of public discourse in Croatia about the Holocaust and the Ustasa regime.
It was, after all, in the 1990s, not last week, that the idea of mixing the bones of dead Partisans and Ustasas together and refashioning Jasenovac death camp into a site of ‘reconciliation’ was seriously considered.
Which isn’t to say that people shouldn’t be alarmed by what’s happening now: they should.
I would argue there are two reasons why last week’s programme has cuased such a stir. First, unlike the revisionists of the Tudjman era who tended to minimise the crimes of the Ustasa regime or only rehabilitate only certain aspects of it, the new cohort of revisionists are, by their own admission, aiming to rehabilitate the regime in its entirety.
Second, revisionism in the 1990s had its strongholds in the academy and mainstream politics which had a constraining effect on all but the most committed acolytes.
Now, in an age of mass media it has migrated to media platforms. Revisionism hence seems more prevalent and dangerous now because it has essentially become a branch of the entertainment industry, amplified by the ubiquity of social media.
Lest we forget, only a couple of years ago, director Jakov Sedlar’s highly revisionist and fraudulent film about Jasenovac received its premiere in Zagreb, attended by then Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic.
But no one should be so naïve as to think the current wave of revisionism began last week or even two years ago. The problem goes much deeper than that.
Arguably, Croatia’s leaders have never really known how to deal with the legacy of the Ustasa regime and Jasenovac, the most enduring symbol of its terror.
The narrative offered by the victorious Partisans provided a useable model, initially at least, emphasising the mass participation of Croats in the Partisan movement and the marginality of the Ustasa movement while placing most of the blame on the German occupiers. This was not exactly false but it was a simplified and idealised version of the truth.
The entrance gate to the Jasenovac death camp
The government of Franjo Tudjman, by contrast, offered a different kind of resolution, combining Ustasa nostalgia and Holocaust minimisation with a much more ambitious project to reconcile Croatian fascists and anti-fascists on the basis of their supposed shared fight for an independent Croatian state.
It also linked Croatia’s struggle for independence in the 1990s to the Croatian ‘independence struggle’ of the 1940s under the Ustasa movement.
In the post-Tudjman years, especially during Croatia’s application to join the European Union, Holocaust memory was Europeanised. As Ljiljana Radonic has written, memory culture transformed Jasenovac into a universal story in which the specifically Croatian identity of the perpetrators was pushed to the margins and the role of the Nazi occupation stressed.
At the same time, the narrative emphasised the specifically Croatian role in the ‘good’ parts of the story, in particular the political oppression of the Croats in inter-war Yugoslavia and the mass participation of Croats in the resistance.
The continued ambivalence regarding the Holocaust in Croatia was apparent at the opening of the Jasenovac Memorial Museum permanent exhibition in 2006 which, as a matter of policy, de-emphasised the national identity of both the victims and the Ustasas as well as their crimes.
Natasa Jovicic, the director of the museum, wrote that the exhibition aimed to restore the individuality of the victims, arguing that the collective identity of the victims and perpetrators had been manipulated in the cause of Serbian nationalism in the early 1990s to generate new hatred.
But this argument was misleading. The people who died in Jasenovac, while they were individuals, were incarcerated in Jasenovac precisely because of their perceived collective identity.
Moreover, in linking the World War II and the wars of the 1990s, the museum exhibition actually legitimated a narrative which has become a leit motif of revisionist forces in Croatia in recent years: namely, that commemorating the crimes of the Ustasa movement constitutes an attempt to blacken the name of Croatia, declare the Croats a genocidal people and criminalise the Homeland War.
On the surface, a narrative which implicated not just ordinary Croats but Croatian identity itself in the crimes of the Ustasa movement through linking defence of the Ustasa regime to patriotism should have permanently discredited revisionists.
After all, when it came to power in 1941, the Ustasa movement enjoyed no popular mandate and was very quickly rejected by a large number of Croats. Still today, the majority of Croats reject the legacy of the Ustasa movement.
Moreover, the constitution of the Republic of Croatia states unambiguously that it is founded on the principles of anti-fascism.
That revisionists have seen their influence actually grow in Croatia is a reflection of the weakness of civil society, a testament to the failure of institutions such as the Catholic Church in Croatia to confront their role in the horror of the 1940s and evidence of the increasingly receptive political climate in which groups such as these are operating.
As the recent controversy about the location of the commemorative plaque for fallen Homeland defenders (1990s Croatian war veterans) in Jasenovac illustrates, invoking the sacrosanct Homeland War has become an increasingly profitable strategy for revisionists and Ustasa nostalgists.
It is no coincidence that Vukic has been a frequent guest on right-wing veteran television shows nor that some of the loudest revisionist voices belong to right-wing war veterans.
At the same time, the growing reach of revisionists would not be possible without the funding and support they have received from the Ministry for Veterans.
In 2017, for example, Vukic’s society was awarded 6,700 euros by the ministry to conduct research on archives related to the Jasenovac camp. Meanwhile, a veterans’ group was awarded 2,700 euros for the publication of a collection of revisionist essays about the Ustasa children’s camp at Jastrebarsko, as part of a scheme which awards funds for applications which “promote the values of the Homeland War.”
What can be done? On the one hand, revisionism and Ustasa nostalgia in Croatia is a problem only Croats themselves can resolve. As the protests of 2016 demonstrated, when large numbers of people come onto the streets across Croatia to say enough is enough, politicians notice.
But there are also more modest actions that can be taken. Paradoxical as it might seem, denying crimes against entire groups of people is much easier than negating crimes against individuals.
As much as anything, perhaps, the Holocaust is made up of small stories and the personal lives of the victims, perpetrators and bystanders. In that sense, the failure of Yugoslav historiography to individualise the victims or perpetrators has been a gift to Holocaust minimizers since it has enabled them to dismiss the official history as an anti-Croatian conspiracy and reframe the victims as opponents of Croatian independence.
One of the reasons, I would argue, why Holocaust denial has tended to be marginal in Austria is because there are reminders of the victims of the Holocaust in every neighbourhood where Jews once lived.
Walk down any street in the old Jewish quarter of Praterstern in Vienna, for example, and there are countless street plaques memorialising the dead, many of them right under your feet.
The Jasenovac death camp
By contrast, the buildings in the Derecinova district of downtown Zagreb or Tuskanac are unmarked.
If such an initiative is unthinkable in Croatia at the moment, journalists, researchers and activists can play their part in restoring to the victims of the Holocaust their individuality while emphasising the collective reasons for their fate.
By the time Mirjana Babunovic-Dimitrijevic was arrested by the Ustasa police in 1944, her familiy was scattered: her husband was in Macedonia, her father had long since been detained, one brother was in Dachau, another was a refugee in Serbia. Her identity was the one thing she had which the regime could not take from her.
Her story and the thousands of similar small, personal stories are not only the history of Jasenovac and the Holocaust, but universal stories of resistance and courage.
They are perhaps the most powerful weapon we have in the preservation of a culture of memory and truth against the revisionist culture of lies.
Originally published on 2018-06-06
About the author: Rory Yeomans is a historian and member of the School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, author of the book Visions of Annihilation: The Ustasha Regime and the Cultural Politics of Fascism, 1941-1945.
Source: Balkan Transitional Justice
Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.
Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!
Donate to Support Us
We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
Several power centers were formed in Libya as a result of the fall of Muammar Gaddafi's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and the destruction of the statehood. None of them has a national legitimacy. The pursuit of personal interests by some political leaders to the detriment of the general state is intertwined with territorial fragmentation. The historic regions - Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan - have de facto separated from each other. The Libyan phenomenon of the city-state arose (Misrata, Al-Zintan, Sirte, etc.). The separatist tendencies of the tribes grew stronger.Along with it, the UN attempts to stabilize the situation in the country. ...
Unlike America under Donald Trump, who is proudly psychopathic and went so far as to blurt out that his followers would accept his leadership even if he were to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, the European Union is so rabidly hypocritical (Trump would probably call it "politically correct") that its leaders routinely moralize about 'human rights and democracy' even while their governments indiscriminately rob and slaughter people in foreign lands (as will be documented here). EU leaders assist U.S.-led atrocities while using prettier language to describe their alleged motivation for these policies. Though the U.S. Government also occasionally employs such ...
The United States the use of force against the sovereign state of Syria is a prima facie violation of international law. It is an act of aggression against the UN Member State in violation of the Charter of the United Nations. It therefore gives Syria the right to react in self-defense or a legal justification for the use of force and it gives any other United Nations Member State the right to act in collective self-defense and to support Syrian action against the US This is the basic understanding of the international legal consequences of the United States use of ...
America’s hegemonic project in the post 9/11 era is the “Globalization of War” whereby the U.S.-NATO military machine –coupled with covert intelligence operations, economic sanctions and the thrust of “regime change”— is deployed in all major regions of the world. The threat of pre-emptive nuclear war is also used to black-mail countries into submission.
This “Long War against Humanity” is carried out at the height of the most serious economic crisis in modern history. It is intimately related to a process of global financial restructuring, which has resulted in the collapse of national economies and the impoverishment of large sectors of ...
World leaders gathered in Paris on Sunday under the Arc de Triomphe to mark the centennial anniversary ending World War I. In an absurd way, the Napoleon-era arc was a fitting venue – because the ceremony and the rhetoric from President Emmanuel Macron was a “triumph” of lies and platitudes.
Among the estimated 70 international leaders were US President Trump and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, each sitting on either side of Macron and his wife. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was also given pride of place beside the French president.
Macron’s address to the dignitaries was supposed to be a call for international ...
Long live the European court, the most humane court in the world!
That is why seven times as many Croat and more than ten times as many (Kosovar) Albanian war crimes suspects, in percentage terms relative to Serbs, were acquitted by the Hague Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, with Radovan Karadzic being just its latest victim. (Source via this recent infographic from Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda).
No matter that well before Srebrenica you had Sisak, where 595 Serb civilians of which 120 were women were disappeared by Croatian paramilitaries in 1991-1992. Everyone has heard of Srebrenica; almost nobody has heard heard of Sisak. The largest ethnic cleansing ...
Obit scribblers are calling John McCain a war “hero.” Well, I have to concede that unlike so many warmongering chickenhawks such as Karl Rove, Paul Wolfowitz, Robert Kagan and most other neocons, McCain did actually serve in the military. But the same could be said for nearly all top Nazis including Hitler and Goering; they fought in a war and they loved war. They were destructive persons who learned nothing positive from their military experience.
Of course, few of the pundits and politicians who are eulogizing McCain would wish to include Nazis in their hall of fame, nor would most of ...
Kosovo Albanian Muslims and their unthinking and duped supporters in the US are denying the Holocaust when they claim that Albanians rescued 100% of the Jews in Kosovo and in Albania. Albanian Muslims are Holocaust deniers like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, yet Albanians are not ostracized. Why? Why are Albanian Muslims and their lackeys and stooges in the US allowed to get away with denying the Holocaust, with falsifying their role in the destruction of European Jews?
The ignorance of the Albanian lobby is appalling. Albanian Muslims played a role in the Holocaust. Who claims this?
Raul Hilberg, the founder of Holocaust studies and ...
Like most Englishmen, I grew up with a natural dislike of “abroad” and a belief in the inferiority of all foreign things. I think it took me five visits to France before I began to regret leaving that lovely country rather than to rejoice at my return to our safe and familiar island.
It often strikes me as quite funny that I spent so much of my life as a foreign correspondent, a profession for which I am so unfitted. When I went to live in Moscow in 1990, I felt that I had somehow betrayed my native soil. (I was ...
The war machine that is the United States of America, not content with threatening the world with its missile attack on a Syria airbase, not content with massing its forces around the Korean Peninsular and threatening to murder its leaders and massacre its people, not content with its escalating hostility towards Russia and China, decided the world needed one more demonstration of its power today, Thursday, April 13 by dropping its most powerful non-nuclear bomb on an Afghanistan saturated with its bombs.
This demonstration, using a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Blast Bomb (MOAB), that the Americans like to call the ‘mother of ...
The Russian Revolution of 1917 terrified the capitalist world. In my last article based on the first volume of D.F. Fleming’s classic “The Cold War and It’s Origins 1917-1960” I traced the story of the attempt to destroy the world’s first communist revolution. 14 Nations attacked the Soviet Union attempting to carve out territory and crush the revolution. They also launched a massive wave of repression at home. Then they attempted to isolate the USSR while they built up Hitler’s Germany as a bulwark against Communism. This lead to World War 2 and an alliance between the USSR, Britain and ...
In late November 2013, the ‘Euromaidan’ in Kiev began as a popular protest against a generalized state of corruption and cronyism in Ukraine. The spark that ostensibly ignited the protests was the inability of then President Yanukovych to sign an EU Association Agreement that would cut Ukraine’s economic and military ties to Russia in favor of a closer relationship with the EU and NATO.
The EU had made the release of former Ukrainian prime minister and “gas princess” Tymoshenko a precondition for signing the agreement. But the fact that Tymoshenko was/is a convicted embezzler of state funds, combined with the rather ...
IntroductionBelow are TENC's October 1999 interviews with three Serbian women from the Kosovo town of Orahovac. They recount how, prior to the June 1999 NATO-UN takeover of Kosovo, they believed NATO's promise that it would institute multi-ethnic harmony. They discovered too late that for NATO multi-ethnic meant rule by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).In September, TENC had published its first interview with an eye-witness to the NATO-UN Kosovo takeover: Cedomir Prlincevic, President of the Jewish community and Chief Archivist in Pristina, capital of Kosovo.Mr. Prlincevic described how he and the rest of the small Jewish community were driven from their ...
Back in February, we warned about the prospect of Israel selling F-16s to Croatia, a state in which WWII revisionism and Holocaust denial are running rampant, and memories of the Nazi puppet Independent State of Croatia are routinely glorified. In the meantime, that has become a done deal. But there is more. Not only will Israel sell half a billion dollars worth of fighter jets to Croatia, but on August 5, three Israeli F-16s, crewed by Israeli pilots, took part in a parade to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of the “Operation Storm,” in which more than 2,300 Serbs were killed, including more than 1,200 civilians, among which more ...
After WWII, the official state-sponsored myth, based on notorious lies and forged historical facts, of the anti-fascist combat and the liberation of Yugoslavia by Tito’s Partisans acquired a political life of its own until the 1990s.The official brainwashed dogma became the so-called National Liberation of Yugoslavia while the personal cult of Josip Broz Tito became framed on the propaganda that self-proclaimed “Marshall” of Yugoslavia (on November 29th, 1943 in Bosnian town of Jajce) was one of the most intelligent and ingenious national leaders of the anti-fascist coalition in Europe during the wartime.[i] However, in post-1945 Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia ...
Marko Attila Hoare rejects and suppresses this factual image of Bosnian history in favor of a fantasy or delusional image from a television comedy. The real Heinrich Himmler (Heimlich Bimmler) reviewing the real or “historical” Bosnian Muslim Nazi SS Division Handzar, 1943.
Did the Bosnian Muslim Army and Government reform or recreate the infamous Nazi SS Division Handzar or not? Based on Martko Attila Hoare’s response to my article, Hoare now concedes that, indeed, there was a formation in the Bosnian Muslim Army termed the “Handzar Division”.
Let me reiterate that. Hoare admitted that the Bosnian Muslim Government did indeed reform the ...
Michigan-based filmmaker Michael Moore makes the connection between Kosovo and the Columbine shooting in his Academy Award-winning documentary Bowling for Columbine (2002). Moore puts Kosovo in the context of a broader U.S. foreign policy agenda and a domestic culture of violence. Moore asks: “Are we a nation of gun nuts or are we just nuts?”
In the first scene, Moore walks into the North Country Bank in Michigan to open an account. He saw an ad in the newspaper that the bank would give out free guns to those who open accounts there. Moore walks into the bank and tells the ...
The Federal Prison Industries (FPI) under the brand UNICORE operates approximately 52 factories (prisons) across the United States. Prisoners manufacture or assemble a number of products for the US military, homeland security,and federal agencies according to the UNICORE/FPI website. They produce furniture, clothing and circuit boards in addition to providing computer aided design services and call center support for private companies.
UNICORE/FPI makes its pitch for employing call center support personnel to firms thinking about off-shoring their call center functions. The logic is that, hey!, they may be prisoners, but it’s keeping the jobs in the USA that matters. Fair enough. ...
North from Nazareth’s city limits, a mile or so as the crow flies, is an agricultural community by the name of Tzipori – Hebrew for “bird.” It is a place I visit regularly, often alongside groups of activists wanting to learn more about the political situation of the Palestinian minority living in Israel.
Tzipori helps to shed light on the core historic, legal and administrative principles underpinning a Jewish state, ones that reveal it to be firmly in a tradition of non-democratic political systems that can best be described as apartheid in nature.
More than a decade ago, former U.S. president Jimmy ...
On June 2 (2016), a few days before the California primary, Hillary Clinton gave up trying to compete with Bernie Sanders on domestic policy. Instead, she zeroed in on the soft target of Donald Trump’s most “bizarre rants” in order to present herself as experienced and reasonable. Evidently taking her Democratic Party nomination for granted, she is positioning herself as the perfect candidate for hawkish Republicans.
Choosing to speak in San Diego, home base of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, on a platform draped with 19 American flags and preceded by half an hour of military marching music, Hillary Clinton was certain ...
The Rabidly Hypocritical EU
Why the United States’ Use of Force Against Syria Violates International Law
America’s “Long War” Against Humanity
World War I Homage – A Triumph of Lies and Platitudes
The Hague Tribunal: Only the Serbs are Prosecuted
The Fallacy of Calling McCain or Anyone Else a War Hero
America Aggression: A Threat to the World
The Cold War and Its Origins: History of the Soviet Union (1950-1960)
Euromaidan: Anatomy of a Washington-Backed Coup d’Etat
Nightmare by Design: NATO’s Takeover of the Kosovo Town of Orahovac
Israel Stamps Approval on Europe’s Largest Post-WWII Ethnic Cleansing
Titoslavia: The National Questions and Interrepublican Boundaries
The Bosnian Muslim Government Reformed the WWII Nazi SS Division Handzar in 1992-1995
Kosovo: The US “Psyche”, US Culture and US Foreign Policy
Mass Incarceration, Prison Labor in the United States
Hillary Comes Out as the War Party Candidate