Tuesday, February 23, 2021

CRIMINALS ON PAPER, HEROES IN PUBLIC: To this day, modern Croatia has not made a substantial break with the executioners from the time of the Independent State of Croatia


These words were uttered in July 2008 by the Catholic priest Vjakoslav Lasić at the Zagreb Crematorium, commemorating the former commander of the Ustasha camps Jasenovac and Stara Gradiška. Sakic, the infamous commander of the largest execution sites of Serbs, Jews and Roma, was lying on the stage – in Ustasha uniform.

The scene from Sakic’s farewell in Zagreb, where he was buried as a convict for war crimes during the Second World War, is symbolic in many ways because it testifies to the strong pro-Ustasha energy in the public opinion of the new, European Croatia.

To make the absurd in this case even bigger, the Ustasha villain was arrested under international pressure in 1999 in Argentina, and his trial was supposed to serve as water for washing the dirty past of the young Croatian state. However, Sakic was buried in it in the presence of leaders of political parties, pro-Ustasha associations, Croatian generals …

Only a few years earlier, he gave an interview to Croatian journalists in which he said that everything he did in the war, if possible, he would repeat.

The case of Dinko Sakic – son-in-law of the executioner Max Luburic and comrade-in-arms Ante Pavelic, who baptized his children in exile, in many ways reflects the attitude of today’s Croatia, as well as the Catholic Church, towards the perpetrators of genocide in the Independent State of Croatia. Despite the official fence of the state from the week of these villains, in practice they are often the subject of worship, public giving of honors, and even ascension to heroic heights.

The scenes revived by Predrag Antonijevic’s film “The Gift from Jasenovac” evoked only a fragment of the cruelty of the Ustasha regime in the implementation of systemic crimes, but also reminded of the tolerant attitude of the Croatian authorities towards the skeletons from the state closet. This is perhaps best evidenced by the almost countless warnings of the “Simeon Wiesenthal” center and its director, Efraim Zuroff, who did not miss the glorification of fascism in modern Croatia.

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There are a handful of examples. The woman beast Nada Sakic, Dink’s wife, managed to emigrate to Argentina after the war and avoid responsibility for the acts committed. When the authorities of the FR Yugoslavia asked Argentina to extradite her in mid-July 1998, the Republic of Croatia hurried with the same request. The following year, the Zagreb County Court rejected all evidence against Sakic, found her not guilty and acquitted her. She stayed in Croatia, where she was taken care of. She lived in an elite retirement home in Zagreb and enjoyed all the privileges worthy of a national hero and a deserving citizen. By the way, on July 15, 2011, at the request of Serbia, Interpol issued a warrant for Nada Sakic, suspected of crimes in Ustasha camps. On the same day, Croatian media reported that the accused had died on 5 February 2011 and had been cremated at the Mirogoj Cemetery in Zagreb.

HE FAILED IN THE GOVERNMENT

A special contribution to the relativization of Ustasha ideology in the recent past was made by HDZ official Zlatko Hasanbegović, who in 2016 served as Minister of Culture in the Croatian government. He is remembered as a man who openly called the Ustashas “martyrs and heroes.” Neo-Sustak iconography is close to him, so as a young man he was photographed with an Ustasha hat on his head. He attended ultra-rightist rallies at which flags resembling the symbols of the Independent State of Croatia, flags of the “black legion” and the like fluttered.

There is also a lot of evidence that Ustasha criminals were tolerated in the regime of the former communist Yugoslavia. Until 1969, the criminal Maks Luburić walked around Europe and South America, and Chief Pavelić was an exemplary citizen of Argentina until he met Blagoje Jovović in 1957. All of them, for a large number of Croatian citizens, are still patriots as role models.

Some criminals had the same status in communist Croatia. The controversial Cardinal Stepinac, although convicted of war crimes, was buried in the Zagreb Cathedral, and in the 1970s the creation of his cult of personality began, which culminated in the Vatican’s proclamation as “blessed”. Masses for the rest of the soul of many Ustasha criminals and convicted criminals were freely served in Catholic churches, especially in Western Herzegovina and under communism.

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MIROSLAV FILIPOVIĆ

FROM SATAN
ONE of the most cruel criminals in the Second World War, Miroslav Filipović (1915-1946), played by Vuk Kostić in the film, was a Franciscan, an Ustasha, for a time the commander of the Jasenovac and Stara Gradiška camps.

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He was born in Jajce in 1938, and was ordained and entered the Franciscan order in the Petrićevac monastery in Banja Luka, receiving the religious name Tomislav. In the fall of 1942, he replaced his mantle with a uniform and became the commander of the Jasenovac camp. Filipovic is responsible for mass crimes against the Serb population, which is why he was nicknamed Fra Satan. During his command of only four months, between 20,000 and 30,000 detainees were killed in Jasenovac. After the war, he was captured by the British and extradited to the Yugoslav authorities. He was sentenced to death by hanging.

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VJEKOSLAV MAKS LUBURIĆ

SADISTS AND BY GERMAN MEASURES
USTASIAN officer Vjekoslav Maks Luburić (1914-1969) was the commander of the Jasenovac camp and other death camps in the Independent State of Croatia. This criminal is played by Marko Janketić in the film. Luburic was considered one of the most brutal officers, who came from the Serbian tribe Drobnjak from Montenegro. One part of Drobnjak moved to western Herzegovina and accepted the Roman Catholic faith, and after that they became Croats, and some sources state that Luburić himself knew that.

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He got the nickname Max from his longtime friend Jure Frančetić during his stay in the Ustasha camp of Janko Pust. Due to his involvement in numerous war crimes, he gained a reputation as the most brutal among Ustasha commanders. Terrible were his first “reports,” when he took detainees into the camp, his howls and curses, which he accompanied with slaps, butts, revolver bullets, or cuts to the throat. While touring the camp, he lurked to find out what kind of violation of “camp discipline” was; would he not notice that a detainee is suffering from weakness, old age or illness, and therefore pauses at work for a moment; would he not notice that some hungry detainee is looking for some kind of food waste or does not perform the prescribed Ustasha greeting towards him. Immediately, the bandit’s eyes would glaze over at that face, and a revolver or a knife would take action. German observers described him as a “great sadist” and a “nervous patient.”

After the war, he commanded the Crusaders who waged a guerrilla war against the new Yugoslav state, before emigrating to Franco’s Spain. Luburic was killed in Carcahente, Spain, by Udba agent Ilija Stanic, but only in 1969.

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NADA ŠAKIĆ

PATHOLOGICAL KILLER
The guard of the women’s camp in Jasenovac, Nada Šakić (1926-2011), was the half-sister of Vjekoslav Maks Luburić. Nada (played by Alisa Radaković) soon proved worthy of the Ustasha green uniform – in the women’s camp Stara Gradiška, where almost 80,000 women and children were killed in just three years, according to testimonies, she was one of the greatest criminals. She was always in Ustasha uniform with belts, a pistol and a dagger in her boot, and she pathologically enjoyed the brutal torture and most often killed for no reason. There are testimonies of surviving prisoners describing her slaughter of inmates. After the massacre, she would “weigh herself” a little, comb her hair with her hand and continue on as if she had done something most normal before.

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