Open letter from Ottawa to European Parliament Re. Croatian Nazi war criminal Stepinac


Ottawa, June 20, 2016

Open Letter
To European Parliament MEPs

Dear MEP,

It is with shock and disbelief that we receive the news that the European Parliament is being used to falsify history, and promote Aloysius Stepinac by having an exhibition in his “honour” in the European Parliament building.

The exhibition was opened by your colleague, vice-president Mairead McGuinness at the request of Marijana Petir, MEP from Croatia on June 14, 2016 in Brussels..

When opening the exhibition, Mme McGuinness admitted she didn’t know very much about Stepinac, until she “learned a little” about him for the occasion. Although unknown to Mme McGuinness, Stepinac is very well known throughout the states of the former Yugoslavia.

Who was Stepinac?

He is the priest on the far right in this picture:

!cid_ii_1556ff031040f860

During World War II, Stepinac was a member of parliament of the Nazi satellite “Independent State of Croatia” (Croatian: “Nezavisna Država Hrvatska”, NDH).

He was also the Military Vicar of NDH [1], whose main force consisted of Ustashi, equivalent of the SS in Nazi Germany during WWII. This is why he is known as the “Ustashi Vikar”.

Another of his duties was to preside over the committee for the forcible conversion of Orthodox Serbs in the NDH.

In 1941, Stepinac said: “God, who directs the destiny of nations and controls the hearts of Kings, has given us Ante Pavelic and moved the leader of a friendly and allied people, Adolf Hitler, to use his victorious troops to disperse our oppressors and enable us to create an Independent State of Croatia. Glory be to God, our gratitude to Adolph Hitler, and infinite loyalty to chief Ante Pavelic.” [2]

As a member of the European Parliament, you know who Hitler was. However, if you are less familiar with Ante Pavelic, whom Stepinac glorified – he was the head of the NDH. His own words best describe his character: “A good Ustasha is one who can use his knife to cut a child from the womb of its mother.” [3]

For his fervent support and service, Pavelic awarded Stepinac the highest Ustashi decoration “The order of Merit” in 1944:

!cid_ii_1556ff0c47ba6838

During the WWII, Stepinac held the position of archbishop of the capital Zagreb, the highest clerical position in the NDH. His subordinates served with him in the Ustashi parliament, held important positions in the Ustashi government and actively participated in Ustashi crimes. One of Stepinac’s subordinates was friar Miroslav Filipović who commanded the Jasenovac concentration camp and who particularly enjoyed throwing Serbian children in the air and impaling them on his dagger.[4] Hundreds of priests and friars under Stepinac instigated and personally committed countless crimes in the NDH. Friar Srećko Perić communicated their murderous drive in these words: “My Croat brethren! Go and slay all Serbs! First of all my sister, who is married to a Serb. After that, come to me to give me your confession and I will make sure your sins are forgiven.” [5]

Not only did Stepinac not do anything to stop and punish his subordinates, he denied and defended their actions. This is what he said in 1945: “representatives of the Catholic church did not betray their calling even for a moment, and any possible mistakes of a few priests are very small in comparison to what happened on the other side, to which the ignorant world applauds.” [6]

The NDH had a plan summarized in the words of Mile Budak, Minister of Education and Faith in the NDH: “The movement of the Ustashi is based on faith. For the minorities we have three million bullets. We shall kill one part of the Serbs, expel the second part, and convert to Catholicism the third part of them.” [7]

The first part of the plan was successfully completed during WWII, when Ustashi killed well over a million Serbs, Jews and Roma, with their Ustashi atrocities forgiven by the Catholic priests under Stepinac. Most of their victims were killed in concentration camps like Jasenovac, Stara Gradiška, Sajmište, Stupačinovo, Slana, Metajna, Đakovo, Gospić, Jadovno, Caprag, Lepoglava, Danica, Kerestinec, Kruščica, Lobor, Tenja, Jastrebarsko, Vila Luburić, Livno, Donja Gradina… The NDH was the only Nazi state that had concentration camps for children.

Both of my maternal grandparents were killed in Jasenovac, the largest of the concentration camps. Ustashi killed my paternal grandfather, together with 71 other Serbs from the same village by slitting the backs of their necks and throwing burnt lime on the open wounds to cause maximum suffering.

The second part of the plan was executed under the leadership of the committee tasked with the forcible conversion of Orthodox Serbs in the NDH, headed by Stepinac. On the 8th of May 1944, Stepinac informed the Pope that “244,000 Orthodox Serbs” had been “converted to the Church of God.” [8]

The third part of the plan, however, was fulfilled only in 1991-1995 when almost all of the Serbs were ethnically cleansed from the newly proclaimed state of Croatia, which inherited the same flag, coat of arms and hymn from the NDH. The very term “ethnic cleansing” was coined by the Croatian Ustashi during WWII. I myself left Zagreb in 1991 after walking past graffiti “Passage forbidden for dogs and Serbs” and after hearing neo-Ustashi singing “Srbe na vrbe” (“Let’s hang Serbs on willow trees”).

Today’s Croatia is headed by a government bent on whitewashing the past. I visited the Jasenovac concentration camp with my family last year to find the memorial complex filled with photographs of Serbian civilians eating and working. No photographs of bloodied knives, starved children, mutilated bodies and the number of victims decreased almost twentyfold. “Arbeit macht frei” seemed the only fitting title for the exhibition.

In today’s Croatia, Zlatko Hasanbegovic who attended Ustasha gatherings, wore Ustasha symbols and wrote for the magazine “Independent State of Croatia” in the 1990s is now the Minister of Culture. In today’s Croatia, the Prime Minister Tihomir Orešković did nothing when the Ustasha salute “Za dom spremni!” (“Ready for the homeland!”) chants rang out in a stadium during a football match he attended. He even urged Pope Francis to proclaim Stepinac a saint!  In today’s Croatia, the President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović personally honours Ustashi war dead in the Bleiburg cemetery. In today’s Croatia, Ustashi veterans draw a veteran soldier’s pension. In today’s Croatia, only a small fraction of Serbs expelled after 1991 have returned to their homes. In today’s Croatian Constitution, Serbs are a minority whereas they were a founding nation before 1991. Representatives of today’s Croatia organize exhibitions glorifying Aloysius Stepinac in the European Parliament.

Today’s Croatia was recognized as an independent state by all members of the European Union and was accepted into the European Union despite the fact that it is rooted in genocide, ethnic cleansing and forcible conversions.

You, as a member of the European Parliament have a responsibility to speak up and act. Doing nothing is equivalent to giving a Nazi salute and welcoming Nazism back to Europe.

Stanko Vuleta, president

The Ottawa Serbian Heritage Society,
Muskoka Ave 928
Ottawa, Ontario
K2A 2V9
Canada

ottawaserbianheritagesociety@gmail.com(613)728-9975

[1] Letter of Archbishop Stepinac informing the Catholic clergy that Pope Pope Plus XII has named him the Military Vicar of the NDH.https://repository.library.nd.edu/view/951/000130791.pdf, page 66 (in Croatian)

[2] Nedelja, Croatian weekly magazine, 27 April 1941

[3] Clive Ponting, “ARMAGEDDON“, pages 231-232, ISBN 0-679-43602-2

[4] Berger Egon, “44 mjeseca u Jasenovcu”, page 57, Zagreb: Nakladni zavod Hrvatske

[5] Viktor Novak, “Magnum Crimen, Pola vijeka klerikalizma u Hrvatskoj”, page 651

[6] Viktor Novak, “Magnum Crimen, Pola vijeka klerikalizma u Hrvatskoj”, page 1037

[7]Srdja Trifkovic, “Ustaše: Croatian Separatism and European Politics, 1929–1945”, page 141, ISBN 9781892478009

[8] Edmond Paris, ”Convert or Die”, ISBN 9780937958353

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