Kurt Waldheim’s Knighthood, The Vatican, The Serbs and Israel
A few weeks ago, the civilized world was shocked by the news that War Criminal Kurt Waldheim, the man who had hidden his sordid past for years, and who cannot enter the USA, was awarded a knighthood by the Vatican. Then the news came that the Serbs had blocked a visit by the Pope on the grounds that the Vatican had been involved in mass murders of Serbs during World War II.
Is there a connection between these two developments?
Let us look at the record. It was on September 6th that The New York Times gave prominent placement to a report giving the reasons for the cancellation of the Pope’s visit to Sarajevo — under the headline “The Catholic Church Is Accused of Complicity In The Killing of Serbs” and went on to report: “Serbian anger, which is evident in the Bosnian Serbs’ refusal to assure the Pope’s visit, is essentially rooted in the events of World War II, so a papal visit might have been greeted with whistles and boos. During the War, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Zagreb Alojzije Stepinac greeted the installation of the Pavelic regime as `G-d’s hand at work’ and never publicly denounced the onslaught on Serbian civilians. The ferocity of this onslaught, which often involved conversion of Greek Orthodox Serbs to Roman Catholicism at gunpoint or their massacre in churches, was well known in the Vatican.”
The Times then describes some shootings of masses of Serbs by the Croats, who were blessed by the Vatican.
Not one word about the murder of the Jewish population was printed by The Times. Stepinac was elevated to Cardinal by Pope Pius XII and was responsible for installing his friend, Father Cecelja, in the leadership of the murderous Ustashi forces. As unbelievable as it seems, Pope John Paul II, during his visit to Croatia this week, did not shrink from praising Cardinal Stepinac as a national hero and a “vigilant, true pastor of his flock,” despite his deep involvement during World War II in the mass murders in Croatia. It is equally shocking that this latter-day praise of the wartime Cardinal was wildly applauded by hundreds of Catholic priests and nuns who were in the audience. The Catholic anti-Semites and anti-Serbians of today are clearly unrepentant. They clearly do not lament the disappearance from their soil of all of the Sefardic Jewish communities that were descendants of the Jewish refugees from the Spanish expulsion of 1492.
It is significant that in the following days, The New York Times never again featured the true background of the Serbs’ disdain for a Papal visit, but changed its emphasis totally. Now, the reason given is simply the fact that fighting is still going on in the area, and that it is unsafe for any traveler there. Evidently, The New York Times — which has an unbroken record of whitewashing any enemy of the Jews, whether Arafat, Farrakhan or the Pope — was forced by its Catholic friends to censor any further reminder of one of the worst chapters in the murderous history of the Holocaust.
What really happened?
Soon after the Germans invaded and occupied Yugoslavia in 1941, they separated Croatia from the rest of the country, and established a Nazi puppet government there, which was placed under the direct jurisdiction of the Vatican. Thus Croatia and Slovakia became the only two countries during the Holocaust which were ruled under direct orders of the Church. It is therefore significant that no other Nazi-ruled country rushed as fast and as thoroughly to carry out the mass murders of Jews, as did Slovakia under Bishop Tiso and Croatia under a number of highly positioned Catholic clergymen who had the blessings of Pope Pius XII. The reason for this zeal was, of course, that to the Catholics the killing of Jews was a religious matter, not a political-ideological one as under other Nazi-ruled countries. In the few cases where Jewish community leaders, including venerable rabbis, were given access to the ruling Cardinal or Archbishop in Croatia, they were given the cold-blooded answer that because the Jews had killed J , they deserved death.
The Catholic rulers of Croatia put before the Greek Orthodox, Serbian population an alternative: conversion to Roman Catholicism, or death. The Jews were not given such an alternative. Their fate was only one — death by mass killings.
The Church-approved Government of Ante Pavelic formed the so-called Ustashi, roughly equivalent to the German SS. The worst excesses by the Ustashi were perpetrated under Father Draganovic and Bishop Ivan Saric, the latter called the “hangman” of Serbs and Jews. Synagogues were razed, concentration camps for Jews were established, where they were either massacred on the spot, or deported to Auschwitz for gassing. Of the 20,000 Jews, less than 1,0000 survived. The massacres were further aggravated by the arrival of the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, who had been Hitler’s favored guest in Berlin. He organized a Moslem SS division of some 20,000 Bosnian Moslems who carried out atrocities against Jews throughout Yugoslavia. This is the man whose kinsmen today, Feisal el-Husseini and Yasir Arafat el-Husseini, are intent on completing their relative’s program of annialation of Jews.
Here is where Kurt Waldheim comes in. Waldheim was a key German officer in the area of the worst massacres, especially in 1942, when he was involved in the deportation to Auschwitz of some 9, surviving Jews. He helped the mass murderer Ante Pavelic, the Pope-blessed head of government, in carrying out the ferocious plans of mass murder to such an extent that Pavelic awarded Waldheim one of the highest decorations — a medal with oak-leaf clusters.
This relationship continued deep into the post-war era. All the mass murderers of Croatia were sought by the Allies as War Criminals. Somehow the leading ones among them vanished without a trace. There was evidently a well-organized so-called “ratline,” which helped spirit the criminals to safety in the Vatican, and then, via Austria, to South America, Australia and other distant places where they could go into hiding.
Waldheim was, without doubt, a principal in assuring their safe escape, and this could, of course, only have happened with the full cooperation of the Vatican. Cardinal Montini, later Pope Paul VI, was a leading figure in that scheme.
There can be no doubt that all these terrible events would come out in connection with the planned visit by the present Pope to Serbia, especially as his first stop would have been Croatia, where the Ustashi have made a comeback by glorifying their leaders and their deeds during the Holocaust. This of course, brought Waldheim’s role during W.W.II back into focus. My hunch is that the Vatican was keen to “buy” his silence about the sordid role the Vatican had in these mass murders by conferring a coveted knighthood on him.