* war and social upheaval: World War II Europen Theater -- Yugoslavia Croatia NDH

World War II: Yugoslavia--Croatia NDH (Axis Ally)

Figure 1.--Many Croatians chafed about Serbian domination of Yugoslavia after World War I. Here Croatian boys participate in some kind of ceremony near Zagreb during the 1930s. The flag in the background appears to be Yugoslav and not Croatian.

Hitler was furious with Yugoslavia's attempt at neutrality during World War II. Combined with the faltering Italian war with Greece, Hitler invaded and seized Yugoslavia within a few days. Hitler ordered the terror bombing of Belgrade to punish the Yugoslavs for daring to defy him. While Yugoslavia was quickly occupied, the NAZI offensive into the Balkans delayed Operation Barbrossa, the invsion of the Soviet Union with catastrophic consequences foir Hitler and his Third Reich. Hitler divided Yugoslaia. Slovenia was partitioned between Italy and Germany. Most of the country was divided between two puppet states, Serbia and Croatia. The Germans incouraged actions against the Jews. Ethnic tensions exploded between the Serbs and Croats and atrocities against the Jews and Muslims ere were widespread in addition to actions againsts Serbs and Croats. Attrocities were committed by both sides. Some of the most outrgou actions were carried out by the Croatian Fascist Ustache against Serbs, Muslims, and Jews. The Germans promoted actions against the Jews and Gupseys, but do not seem to have been involved in the actions against Serbs and Croats. Much of the recent fighting in the former Yugoslavia today is a result of the terrible attrocities that took place during World war II. Under the Germans Croatia was a nominal kingdom ruled by an Italian princeling, who remained in Italy, probably a good choice on his part.

Italian Invasion of Greece (October 1940)

Mussolini attacked Greece October 28, 1940 through Albania. Mussolini's 1940 invasion of Greece complicated Hitler's time table for Barbarossa. The invasion was not coordinated with Hitler in advance. (The Axis partners never coordinated their operations like the Allies.) Mussolini announced it when Hitler arrived on a visit. "Führer, we are on the march." The Italian troops were beaten back and the Greek troops overtook over one third of Albania. Greece had a Fascist Government that could have possibly brought into the Axis or at least would have remained neutral. Instead Mussolini turned the Greeks into a British ally. The British sent about 50,000 troops to help Greece, which they had to deplete from Egypt. This was important bercause critical to the German invasion was access to the Romanian oil fields. Germany had been relying on Soviet oil deliveries to supplement its synthetic oil production. The Soviet deliveries would end of course when Germany invaded leaving the Germans dependant on Romanian oil until the Soviet Caucauses could be seized. Greek successes against the Ilalians had created an Allied belingerant that could provide air fields to attack the Romanian oil fields. Hutler thus saw a German intervention to seize Greece and secure Germany's southern flank would be necessary.

NAZI Diplomacy

German forces in Romania were reinforced and efforts were made to bring Yugoslavia into the NAZI orbit so that the Panzers could move through that country to attack Greece. Hitler had forced Yugoslavia to join the other Axis Balkan partners, but the Government was overthrown necessitaing a full sacle German invasion. Hitler had to come to the rescue Mussolini.

NAZI Invasion (April 1941)

Hitler was furious with Yugoslavia's attempt at neutrality during World War II. The Germans invaded Greece and Yugoslavia simultaneously with a massive military assault (April 6, 1941). Belgrade was subjected to Luftwaffe terror bombing for rejecting an alliance with the NAZIs. The Germans swept through Yugoslavia, crushing the country in 12 days. Greece assisted by a British expeditionary force held out for a few weeks. Greece was finally (April 27, 1941). Greek and British military planners assumed that the Yugosalvs would offer stiffer resistance. The Germans even took Crete with a daring, but costly parachute assault. (Hitler never again allowed a parachute assault.) The NAZI invasion was viewed differently in various parts of Yugoslavia. It was anti-German rioting in Serbia and Slovenia that started the chain of events that caused the NAZI invasion. The Croatians viewed the German invasion differently. A Croatian reader who was a youth at the time tells us that the population in his town cheered the German troops when they arrived. [Springer] Just how wide spread this feeling was in Croatia was, I m not sure.

Delay of Barbarossa (June 1941)

While Yugoslavia was quickly occupied, the NAZI offensive into the Balkans may have delayed Operation Barbrossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. We have seen different opinions on this. Many authors say that the Balkans campaign delayed Barbarossa. Others say that it had little impact. We have not seen a definitive statement on this. We do know that the campaihn did not weaken the Wehrmacht. Actual losses were minimal. Some of the equipment may have needed repair and maintenance. We do not yet know the impasct on Barbarossa. If the Balkans campaign did delay Barbarossa, the consequences were catastrophicfor Hitler and his Third Reich. The Balkans diversion delayed Operation Barbarossa by at least 6 weeks. If Hitler had started his invasion to of the Soviet Union May it seems highly likely that they would have seized Moscow if not have defeated the Red Army. As it was the Wehrmacht was stopped on the outskirts of Moscow in December, 1941.

Partition of Yugoslavia

Hitler and Mussolini divided Yugoslaia. Slovenia was partitioned between Italy and Germany. Most of the country was divided between two puppet states, Serbia and Croatia. Small sections were given to Axis allies Bulgaria and Hungary. Part of the Serbian section was turned into the Banat for ethnic Germans. Italy obtained areas along the Adriatic coast, including Dalmatia that was populased with Croats and the Croatians wanted. The Croats were compensated with Bosnia. NAZI Croatia thus consisted of much of modern Croatia and large parts of Bosnia. The capital was Zagreb. It had a population of 6.3 million people: Catholic Croats (3.3 million), Orthodox Serbs (1.9 million), Muslims (0.7 million), Jews (40,000), and Gypsies (30,000). The attitude of the Croats towards the advancing German units was very different than the Serbs. Many Croats saw the Germans as liberating them from the Serbs. It is diffiult to quantify this, but many German soldiers in Croat populated areas were treated as liberators.

Croatian State

The Independent State of Croatia was proclaimed on April 6, 1941, 4 days after the German invasion. Slavko Kvaternik proclaimed "a free and independent State of Croatia" under the direction of Ante Pavelic. This meant Croatia became a NAZI puppet state. Pavelic at the time was in Italy. Italian Fascists were providing support for Pavelic and Croatian nationalists. Pavelic quickly returned to Croatia (April 14). He took up control of Croatoia, Hitler granted "Aryan" status to Croatia and selected Ante Pavelic to head the government. Pavelic had been anxiously awaiting German military action. Mussolini provided Pavelic and his Ustashi the use of remote training camps on a Aeolian island and access to a propaganda station Radio Bari for broadcasts across the Adriatic. The government was hastily cobeled together. The most important officials had been appointed by April 16. Fascist Croatia was created and guaranteed by Axis partners Germany and Italy. The Criatian state has been referred to as apuppet state. This is somewhat misleading. The Government could not defy their masters in Berlin and Rome on major issues. Neither country, however, completely controlled Pavelic.

Axis Partner

Several eastern European countries (Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania) became junior members of the Axis. Bulgaria and Hungary were not enthusiastic partners. The Romanians made the largest contribution to the Axis war effort, primarily because of the desire to reciver the Soviet anexations (1940). Hitler also oversaw the Hungarian annexation of a substantial part of Romania--Transylvania (1940). Croatia became an enthusiastic Axis partner. Pavelic declared war on the Britain (April 17). At the time, the British (and the Dominions) were the only country still at war with NAZI Germany. Croatia could provide only limited support to the German war effort. They did provide two units for service in the Soviet Union. One was destroyed in Stalingrad. For the most part, however, the Croats conducted their own war in Cfoatia anbd Bosnia. Their primary goal was to turn their multi-ethnic state into an etnically clensed Croatian nation.

NAZI Puppet

Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was the country set up by Pavelic after the German invasion. Pavelic had very close relations with the Italians which supported Oavelic and the Ustavhi in the 1930s to help undermine the Yugoslav government. We referred to the Pavelic NDH regime as a NAZI puppet state. A croatian reader took issue with this and wrote, "The NDH wasn't just a "puppet" state as it had internationall acceptance, being recognized by 13 governments including Switzerland." We believe a puppt state is a government: 1) without international acceptance, 2) largely controlled by a more powerful state, 3) with little domestic acceptance, and 4) which permits explotive policies. And here we must point out that there are varying deggrees of domination. Probably the purest example of a puppet state was Japanese Manchuko. The NDH was not to that degree a creature of the NAZIs. It was als not a turly independent country. It is true that it was recognized by 13 countries. But these appear to have been Axis countries or countries under Axis influence. Switzerland for example fter the fall of France lived under the constant threat of a NAZI invasion. Other countries which recognized the NDH were like Vichy France undr various degrees of NAZI control. The degree of NAZI control was substantial. The NDH could not adopt any policy which in any way differed with fundamental NAZI goals. Our knowlege of the mechanisms of control by the Germans and Italians is limited and needs to be expanded, but we know of no important policy that the NDH persued in defiance of the NAZIs. It is also true, however, that the NDH proved a difficult ally to control. The NDH was determined to persue a program of ethnic cleansing in Croatiaand Bosnia which the NAZIs were more interested in stability so that the resources of the Balkans could be exploited to support the German war effort. We are unsure just how much domestic support the NDH generated. There were no elections allowed to help assess this. The NDH's highly nationalistic stance must have generated some support, but we are unablre to assess this. Nor do we know the degree of NAZI explotation of resources in Bosnia and Croatia. There certainly seem to be reasons for calling the NDH a puppet regime, but it is true that the Germans found it difficult to control their ally. Theoretically the Italians were in chasrge, but the Germans exercized more influence.

Military Role

Croatia (NDH) was a small country, but given its size made a substantial contribution to the Axis war effort. Pavelic organized actual Croatian units. The regular NDH army was the "Domobran" (traditional Home guard). These men were conscripted and had range of political views incluing largely apolitical views. Many were quite young. Most were patriotic Croatians, but not with Fascist attitudes despite fighting with the NAZIs. The Wehrmact did not have a great deal of respect for the Domobran and attempted to train units. Some of the training took place in the Reich. Pavelic's most loyal political supporters were members of the "Ustasas", the Croatian Fascist party. The police and army units (Ustaska Vojnica), corresponded to the NAZI SS and the Waffen-SS units. [Springer] They were responsible for terrible attrocities, both in Croatia and Bosnia. Many Croatians also volunteered to serve in German and to a lesser extent Italian units. Croatians served in all branches of the German Wehrmacht, the Waffen SS, and the SS Police. Some of the major German units included: the 369th Reinforced Infantry Regiment, 369th "Devil's" Division, 373rd "Tiger" Division, 392nd "Blue" Division, the Croatian Airforce Legion, The Croatian Naval Legion, the 13th Waffen SS Mountain Division "Handschar", the 23rd Waffen SS Mountain Division "Kama", "Croatia" Police Regiments 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, Police Anti-Tank Company "Croatia", and Gendarmerie Division "Croatia". Units serving with the Italians included: the Light Transport Brigade and the Croatian Legion. [Milcic] The SS in addition recruited Muslim Crots in Bosnia and ethnic Germans in Croatia for the Handzar Division, also responsible for terrible attrocites.

Economic Role

We are unsure at this time as to the economic resources in Croatia and Croatian-controlled Bosnia and to what degree the NAZIs exploited those resources to support the war effort. In much of occupied Europe the Germans either coinfiscated resources or acquired them at very low cost. The Germans, for example, acquired huge quantities of Romanian oil without substantial payment to the Romanians. Only in countries not actially occupied by the Germans (Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey) did the Germans pay any thig close to fair market value for war material. We have no informaun at this time on German economic activities in Croatia and Bosnia.


Germany and Italy never precisely established the boundaries betweem their respective spheres of influence. The Italian occupation zone included almost half of Croatia proper as well as Dalmatia and Montenegro. Musollini officially annexed part of this area to Italy. [Levin]

Race and Religion

Croatia's ideology was a mirror image of NAZI Germany. Croatia was a racist state and quickly brought its laws in conformity with the NAZI Nuremberg Laws. The Croatians who were largely Catholic, because of their struugles with the Serbs, who were largely Orthodox, added a religious component. The Ustashi established the Jasenovac concentration camps. Pavelic decreed that all publications, private and public, of the Cyrillic script were banned (April 15). Jews were defined in racial terms (April 30). Anti-Semitic regulations were implemented establishing a range of educational, economic, and cultural restrictions on Jews (May 1941). The Government closed all Serb Orthodox primary and preschools (June 1941). Under Pavelic's protection, the Catholic Church in Croatia began compelling Orthodox Serbs to convert to the Catholic religion.

Nominal Kingdom

Under the Germans Croatia was a nominal kingdom ruled by an Italian princeling, who remained in Italy, probably a good choice on his part. The individual involved was Aimone Roberto Margherita Maria, Duke of Aosta (1900-48) He was born in Torino, Italy. His parents were Emanuele Filiberto Vittorio Eugenio Genova, Duke of Aosta and Hélène Louise Henriette, Princess of Orleans. He was chosen because of the family relationship to King Victor Vittorio Emmanuele. He became King Tomislav II. Aimone became Duke of Aosta (the cadet branch of the Royal House of Savoy) after the death of his older brother, Amadeo. Amadeo had commanded the Italian army in Eastern Africa and was taken as a prisoner of war near the end of the African campaign. He died in a British camp. Amadeo, asCount Ciano confesses, undoubtedly would have been the consensus choice as monarch of the NDH. He cut a fairly impressive figure (much more charismatic than King Vittorio Emmanuele III). The Aosta had often schemed to try to obtain the crown from their cousins since the formation of the Kingdom of Italy. [Ruchala] Aimone was a most unlikely figure for a king. When offered the crown, per Ciano, it took the Milanese police two days to find him, as he had barricaded himself in his mistress' apartment. He was a drunkard and a playboy, much to the consternation of his Greek wife, who was I believe related to the present Prince Philip of England. Aimone was, however, nearly the only available candidate, since Vittorio Emmanuele only had a single son (though many daughters). The curious issue is why Hitler went along with it, since he despised the Savoyard Dynasty and, following Italy's capitulation, even imprisoned Princess Mafalda in Auschwitz. [Ruchala] Probably for the only time in his life, Aimone showed some resolve: resolve *not* to step foot in Croatia. Mussolini even took him aside and tried to counsel him, as did his uncle the King, but he always found some excuse to delay his departure. There is evidence that he interviewed a number of Italian officers returning from the NDH (Roatta and I believe Ambrosio as well, both of whom played roles in Mussolini's overthrow as well as less exalted roles in the flight of the royal family from Rome after the capitulation, which left it defenseless against the Wehrmacht). Per Ciano, Aimone confessed to the King that he was worried about assassination, to which Vittorio Emmanuele simply advised that "these were the hazards of the trade." [Ruchala] Italy capitulated in 1943 as the Allies landed in southern Italy. I'm not precisely sure where Aimone was from 1943-45; probably in the short-lived "Kingdom of the South," since the Nazis as well as Mussolini in his puppet state in Saló attempted to capture as many of the royal "traitors" as possible, and he would not have lasted. After the monarchy lost the referendum in Italy and all members of the Savoyard Dynasty had to leave, Aimone left by himself for Buenos Aires, where he died in 1948. The King himself went to Egypt; his son, Umberto, and most of his many daughters went to Portugal. [Ruchala]

The Holocaust

Croatia is one of the countriesin which the NAZI Holocaust was especially thorough. It was also one of the countries in which the Germand did not have to do the killing. As soon as the new NAZI-puppet state of Croatia was established, a campaign of terror began. [Cornwell] The Croatian state required Jews to wear the Star of David in publi. Serbs had to wear a blue band with the letter "P" (i.e., Orthodox) on their sleeve. The Nazi regime decreed that the Roma (Gypseys) were to be "treated as Jews" and they were forced to wear yellow armbands. [Crowe] Laws legally defining Jews and creating a wide range of educational, economic and cultural restrictions were established immeduately after the Ustashi came to power (April-May 1941). These measures impoverished the 30,000 Croat Jews came swiftly within the first few months. But the Ustashi goals were not just economic. The Ustashi conducted a series of horific massacres (summer 941). The survivors were sent to the three labor-extermination camps ofJasenovac, Laborgrad and Pag Island, north of Zadar, and to the salt mines at Karlovac and Yudovo. The Ustashi goal of killing all Jews in Croatia was impeded by one problem. About 5,000 Jews lived in the Italian-occupied zone of Croatia. The Italians did not permit the Ustashi to kill or intern Jews. The Germans attempted to convince the Italians to act against the Jews or deport them, but the Italians refused. General Mario Roatta, the commanding general in the Italian Military Zone II, centered around Dubrovnik and Mostar, was especially obstinate. He objected to any form of religious persecution. He even refused to evict Jewish tenants from their apartments to make room for the German Todt Organization. (The Todt Organization was a German construction company founded by Dr. Fritz Todt until his death in 1942. At that time Albert Speer took control of the organization. The company was quasi-miltary and took on many lucrative contracts for projects important to the German war effort. It oversaw the construction of roads and various military installations in occupied countries.) General Roatta's explanation was simply that anti-Jewish measures were "incompatible with the honor of the Italian Army." After fall of Mussolini, a representative in the Foreign Ministry of the Badoglio Government supporte General Roatta and his decission not to surrender the Croatian Jews. This changed aftr the Italian armistace with the Allies (September 1943). The German seized the Croatian occupation zone and interned the Italian Army. At this time some Jew went into hiding. Other joined Tito's partisans, the only partisan group accepting them. A detachment in the fourth Partisan Brigade won special distinction) in fighting the Germans. The Ustashi had, however, had largely succeeded in destroying Cratian Jews. Some 40-60,000 Jews and 26,000 Gypsies were killed in Croatia. Kasche made a final report to Berlin (April 1944). He rported that the Jewish question in Croatia had been solved except for three categories: honorary Aryans, Jews in mixed marriages and Mischlinge (partial Jews). These were the same groups that the NAZIs could not entirely eliminate within the Reich itself. [Levin]


Large numbers of Muslims were included in the new Croatian state. Some areas with Coatian populations were not included, but Bosnia was. The Bosnia population was mixed, including Croats, serbs, and Muslims. Muslim fundamentalists were supported by the Palestinian Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who openly encouraged Muslims to join Nazi units that would be later implicated in crimes against humanity - the infamous Hanjar (or Handschar) 13th Waffen SS division. What united al-Husseini and the Third Reich was a shared hatred of the Jews. Palestine at the time was a British protectorate. The Grand Mufti saw in the early German successes in the war the possibility of independence from the British. The NAZIs provided a haven for him in Berlin after the British seized Iraq. He spent most of the war living in a luxurious suite at the Hotel Adlon in Berlin. Hitler also enjoyed considerable popularity among nationalists in Egypt, also occupied by the British. Nassiri Nasser, the brother of the future president of Egypt, published an Arab edition of Mein Kampf in 1939, describing its author as the "strongest man of Europe".

Concentration Camps

The Croatian Ustashi regime built five concentration camps in and around the village of Jasenovac, with a 7,000 daily inmate capacity. During 1941-44 at least 200,000 Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, Croats and Moslems were murdered in these camps. Some accounts give much higher estmates on the number of people killed there. Although not oprated by the SS, Jasenovac was one of the most notorious camps in Hitler's Europe. The Ustashi used primitive killing methods--knives, axes, hammers and other iron tools. One method popular with the Ustashi was tieing pairs of victims back to back and then throwing them into the Sava River. Traces of the camps no longer exist. President Tito levelled after the War and prohibited discussion of them in the interest of national unity. The Jasenovac camps were organized and operated by the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) and the Ustashi. [Dedijer]

Croatian Attrocities

Ethnic tensions exploded between the Serbs and Croats and atrocities against the Jews and Muslims were were widespread in addition to actions againsts Serbs and Croats. Attrocities were committed by both sides. The most dreadful actions were carried out by the Croatian Fascist Ustashi against Serbs, Muslims, and Jews. The chief architects of the attrocities in Croatia were Ante Pavelic, Ustashi commander, and Mile Budak. The goal of creating a "pure" Catholic Croatia was persued with a religious zeal. The goals of the Ustashi was made clear by Budak, "We will kill one part of the Serbs, the other part we will resettle, and the remaining ones we will convert to the Catholic faith and thus make Croats of them... We must be a country of Croats and no one else and there is no method that we as Ustashe will not use in order to make this country Croatian and to cleanse (sic!) it of Serbs." [Budak] Budak made that statement in 1941 when the NAZIs appeared to many as unstopable. The Ustashi conducted the mass slaughter of the Serbian Orthodox population. The Ushashi proceeded with "... an act of 'ethnic cleansing' before that hideous term came into vogue, it was an attempt to create a 'pure' Catholic Croatia by enforced conversions, deportations, and mass exterminations. So dreadful were the acts of torture and murder that even hardened German troops registered their horror. Even by comparison with the recent bloodshed in Yugoslavia at the time of writing, Pavelic's onslaught against the Orthodox Serbs remains one of the most appalling civilian massacres known to history" [Cornwell, p. 249] The disgust stemed from the horific nature of the Ustashi actions and the fact that the terror was not just directed at Jews. Mass murder began within weeks of Pavelic's assumption of power. What followed was a "crazed bloodletting" [Cornwell, p. 251] An example of what followed occurred in the village of Glina on May 14, 1941. Hundreds of Serbs were brought to a church to attend an obligatory service of thanksgiving for the ne Fascist Croatia. Once the Serbs were inside, the Ustashe militia entered the Church armed with axes and knives. They asked all present to produce their certificates of conversion to Catholicism, only two had the required documents. They were released. The doors of the church were locked. all who remained were butchered. An estimated 750,000 Serbs (men, women and children) were murdered. The Orthodox clergymen and their churches were special targets. The Serbs that were not exterminate, were forced to convert to Roman Catholicism. Wherever the loyal Ustashe (Croatian Nazis) served Pavelic and his Ustashi plundered the property of Orthodox Christian churches and Jewish synagogues. They killed and appropriated the property of Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, Ukrainians and others. In proportion to the population, the Ustashi ttrocities were the worst mass killings carried out during the War. The Croatian Catholic clergy were members of the Ustashi and involved in the killings. [Paris] Two of the clergymen involved were NAZI collaborator Archbishop Stepinac and the Vatican representative to fascist Croatia, Abbot Marcone. Catholic priests, notably Franciscans actively participated in the massacres. "Priests, invariably Franciscans, took a leading part in the massacres. Many, went around routinely armed and performed their murderous acts with zeal. A Father Bozidar Bralow, known for the machine gun that was his constant companion, was accused of performing a dance around the bodies of 180 massacred Serbs at Alipasin-Most. Individual Franciscans killed, set fire to homes, sacked villages, and laid waste the Bosnian countryside at the head of Ustashe bands. In September 1941, an Italian reporter wrote of a Franciscan he had witnessed south of Banja Luka urging on a band of Ustashe with his crucifix." [Cornwell, p. 254.] The Germans promoted actions against the Jews and Gypseys, but do not seem to have been involved in the actions against Serbs and Croats. Much of the recent fighting in the former Yugoslavia today is a result of the terrible attrocities that took place during World War II.

The Ustashi

The Ustashi is one of Europe's oldest terrorist organization. It was founded by Ante Pavelic at the end of World War I to protest the union of Serbia and Croatia as part of the peace settlement. As an illegal organization, they were exiled and worked cladestinely against the Yugoslav government from Italy and Hungary. Mussolini in particular had territorial designs n parts of Yugolavia and thus aided the Ustashi. The Ustashi carried sabotage and political assassination aimed at weakening the Yugoslav state. The most dramatic Ushashi action was the assasination of the Yugoslav King and French Foreign Minister in Marsilles, France (1934). The Ustashi helped run the NAZI puppet state Croatia. The Ustashi did not colapse after the war. Many Ustashi members fled Croatia after World war II with the assistance of the Vatican. The Ustasha continued terrorist activities from cells in Spain, Argentina, and the United States. The Ustashi used Croatian nationalist front organizations like the Croatian Liberation Movement to raise funds and recruits. They were involved in a series of terrorist operations in the United States 1976-1980 including an airline hijacking and bombings in New York. Internationally, Croatian terrorists are alleged to have assasinated the Swedish Prime Ministero Olof Palme, plotted the assasination of President Nixon and the Australian Prime Minister, and committed a string of crimes in Sweden, Germany, Australia, Paraguay, and many other countries. Many of these alegations are unproved. A HBC reader writes, "Regarding Ustashi terrorists being implicated in the murder of "the Prime Minister of Sweden, I haven't seen any evidence that this is true; a great number of groups have been alleged to have killed Palme. I have however found a newspaper article which suggests they tried to kill Prince Philip of England during a state visit to Australia." [Ruchala] The Ustashi returned to Croatia in 1991 to commit atrocities in Bosnia and Krajina during the Yugoslav Civil War.

War Economics

War Economics is an important topiv. Germany after the defeat of France and the offensive against Yugoslavia and Greece controlled almost all of western and central Europe. This was an area of emense industrial capacity and naural resources. Despite the potential, Germany in 1941 was being outproduced in many criticl weapns categories by the British and Soviets. This was partly because Hitler and the NAZIs thought the War had already been won. It was also because of the NAZI's extrodinary brutality and misuse of human resources. The murder of nearly 1 million people in Croatia alone is just one example of NAZI mismanagement. Attrocities of this dimension meant that the economic potential of Croatia could not be fully harnessed for the NAZI war effort.

German Balkans Offensive: Dalmatia (September 1943)

There were not many German offensives in 1943, the only major one was shirt libed and failed at Kursk (July 1943). The Italian surrender to the Allies (September 8, 1943) created a problem for the Germans in the Balkans. The Italains has occupied the areas of Yugoslavia along the Adriatic Coast which included the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. This led to dramatic events along the Dalmatian coast and islands. All islands, including Hvar, were liberated by the Partisam National Liberation Army (NOV). Italian garrisons did not resist anf were disarmed, and the city of Split was freed on September 10. The poorly armed partisans managed to obrain a treadure trove of weaoons and amunition, although not the heavy weapons needed to effectiveky resust the Germans. Hitler decided that the Adriatic coast was too strategically important to lose. The liberation of Dalmatia thus was short-lived. The Germans launched an offensive into the Balkans with their dwindling resources. Fierece fighting followed, alththough the Partisans could not hold back heavily armed combat troops. They retook Split (September 27). And they gradually regained control of the entire coast along with the Peljesac Peninsula. They then began perpatations to take back the islands. Many civilians had fled the fighting to the islands as the Germans occuipied Dalmatia. The refugee situation on the islands was desperate. These islands had small populations which were having troubke feeding their own peole. The ffod simply did not exist to feed the many refigees. The islands' population was swelled by more than 15,000 refugees fleeing the Germans, most were on Hvar. The refugees would have to be evacuated to avoid a humnanitarian disaster. The British set out to save the threatened refugees. The fiurst thiught was to get themn to likbrrated areas of southern Italy. The first effort was made by the HMS Bakar which brought refugees from Vis to Bari (October 1, 1943). The British met with the National Committee for the Liberation of Yugoslavia (NKOJ) They agreed that 10,000 refugees could be cared for in Italy and the rest would be sentt to camps in North Africa, which were in more secure areas under British control. The Parusan NKOJ demabded full control over the camos with no access allowed for representatives of the Royal Yugoslav government abd the Mihailovic Chetniks. The camp would be overseen and supplied by the Allied Military Liaison. Thus many of the refugees spent 2 years in the Egyorian Desert the conditions were hsrsh, but they were safe from the Germans. [Mizej] The Germans landed on Korcula (December 21) and Hvar (January 19, 1944).

The Resistance

There were several Resistance groups operating in Yugoslavia during World War II. The important non-Communist group was formed by Mikhilovich. The German reprisals were so horific that the Resistance, with the exception of Tito's Partisans, directed their attacks against the local colaborators and rival partisans. As the Resistance groups, again with the exception of Tito's Partisans, were generally formed around national groups. They became involved in ethnic cleansings. As a result of the failure of the Chetniks and other non-Communist Resistance groups to confront the Germans, the allies shifted their support to Tito's Partisans. Pavelic and the Ustashi in Croatia by 1944 were increasingly occupied with fighting the Partisans who were increasing in strngth throughout Croatia. The Italian Armistace with the allies brought Italian volunteers to join the partisans as well as stocks of Italian military equipment. Allied equipment was also reaching the partisans. The Ustashi fought the Partisans savage inhumanity, making a common practice of gorging out their eyes and collecting them in wicker baskets. But Pavelic's power was declining. German defeats on the Eastern Front and the build up in France to meet the expected Allied lndings in France, meant that the Wehrmacht had fewer resources to give to the fight against the partisans. Pavelic visited Hitler in Klessheim (Spring 1944). Pavelic by this time no longer dominated Croatia. His power had become so restricted by the Partisans that he was known derisively as "the Mayor of Zagreb." [Levin]

Ustashi War Criminals

Ustashi leader Ante Pavelic, the leader of the NAZI, puppet government survived World War II and never faced a war crimes tribunal. He was given refuge by the Vatican, Spain, and Argentina. He was offered sanctuary by the Vatican and became a security advisor to Juan and Eva Peron before finally retiring to Franco's Spain. He lived peacefully in Madrid. dieing in 1959. Key to Pavelic's survival was the so-called Croatian Treasury, really nothing more than Pavelic personal wealth, the plunder of concentration camps and massacres throughout the Balkans and beyond. He had been personally received by Pius XII during his reign of terror. The Franciscan Order and Vatican bank helped launder Pavelic's loot. Ustahi caught by the partisans received summary justice. Some of the Croatian Treasury was used to help an undetermined number of NAZIs and Ustashi escape to South America. The Ustashi Minister of the Interior, Artukovic, lived openly in California from 1949-86 bfore finally being deported to Yugoslavia and convicted of murder. Thousands of Ustashi escaped justice for their crimes due to their wealth and influence, Cold war politics, and the backing of the Roman Catholic Church . Croatian nationalists during the Cold War portrayed Ustashi war criminals as anti-communist freedom fighters.

Personal Accounts

We have some personal accounts about childhood experiences during World War II in Croatia.

Zvonko Z. Springer

Zvonko Z. Springer was born in Croatia during the 1920s and finished secondary school just after the NAZI invasion and creation of the NAZI puppet state of Croatia (NDH). He recalls being falesly accused as a little boy by a Serb teacher who accused him of disrepect after the assasination of King Alexander by Croatian natioinalists. He describes the various youth groups in which he participated. He explains how his beloved bicycle went to war 2 years before he did. After the German invasion, people in his village cheered ewhen the German troops arrived. Some even wore make-shift swastika armbands. He remembers being impressed and even made a paper one himself and was embarassed when a cousin saw it. His mother was Jewish, but apparently not apracticing Jew as he and his sisyter were unaware of what the new regime planned or the Jews. His sister even liked the Ustashi youth group the children had to join, whoich outraged their father. At age 15 he did work service. Some of his friends did para-military service and assisted the police and Ustashi secret police round up opponets, Serbs, Jews, and Gypseys and transport them to prisons and concentratioin camps. Later he was drafted into the Croatian Army which fought with the Germans.


Budak, Mile. Quoted in the Ustasha newspaper Novi List (June, 1941).

Ciano, Count Galeazzo. Ciano left a diary with considerable informayion on Croatia. are illustrative in this regard. Cali Ruchala informs us that he and colleagues are translating the relevant passages from Ciano's "The Independent State of Croatia"for the Pavelic Papers.

Cornwell, John. The Secret History of Pius XII (Viking: London, UK, 1999).

Crowe, David. A History of the Gypsies of Eastern Europe and Russia (St. Martin's Griffin: New York, 1994).

Dedijer, Vladimir. The Yugoslav Auschwitz and the Vatican.

Levin, Nora. The Holocaust: The destruction of European Jewry 1933-1945 (Schocken Books: New York, 1973).

Levy, Jonathan and Tom Easton, "Ante Pavelic: The real Butcher of the Balkans".

Milcic, Allen. "Croatian Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht in WWII".

Muzej, Hrvatski Povijesni. "El Shatt, Zbjeg iz Hrvatske u Pustinji Sinaja, Egipat (1944-1946)."

Paris, Edmond. Genocide in Satellite Croatia 1941-1945 (The American Institute for Balkan Affairs: Chicago, Illinois, 1990).

Springer, Zvonko. "D-DAY's 50th Anniversary" (February 23, 1994).

Ruchala, Cali. E-mail message, December 10, 2003.


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Created: 4:38 AM 10/15/2005
Last updated: 9:47 AM 7/6/2020