27. ✡️ The Gospel of Atrocities ✝️ Chapter 6

How many know that during World War II, the Catholic Church ran several concentration and/or extermination camps of its own in Europe, ultimately killing hundreds of thousands of people? There were even some camps exclusively for children.

The vast majority of these camps were in Croatia, or the northern region of the country then known as Yugoslavia, whose Catholics had been at enmity for centuries with the Eastern Orthodox, or Serbian people of that region.

Still, as citizens of the same country, the two had pretty much managed to suffer each other’s presence until 1941, when Nazi Germany invaded Yugoslavia and proceeded to occupy the north, proclaim Croatia an independent, German-leaning ‘puppet’ state—or as they themselves referred to it, a German ‘buffer-state’—and appoint the Ustaše, a right-wing, ultranationalist organization more or less modeled after the Nazi party itself, to run it.

The camps, mainly staffed and operated by the Ustaše under the dictator Ante Pavelić—a practicing Catholic, and regular visitor to the Vatican and Pope Pius XII—were chiefly aimed at eliminating all the Jews, Gypsies, and Serbs from Croatia.

According to a report to the Seventh International Conference on the Jasenovac Concentration Camp—presented in 2018 by Vladimir Vasilik, senior lecturer at St. Petersburg State University with a doctorate in history and at the time, candidate for another in theology—on the day that the Yugoslav government capitulated to the Germans, April 7, 1941, its Croation faction passed a Decree for the Protection of the People and the State, which imposed the death penalty for anyone threatening the interests of the Croatian people or the existence of the new Independent State of Croatia.

On April 25, it passed another law prohibiting the use of the Cyrillic alphabet; and on April 30, followed that up with a law on the Protection of Aryan Blood and the Dignity of the Croatian People—after which, all Serbs were required to wear armbands bearing the letter P for ‘Pravoslavac’, meaning Orthodox.

On May 5, the Ustase Government passed a resolution declaring the Serbian Orthodox Church in Croatia illegal; while Pavelic and his Minister of Education and Cults, Mile Budak, together pushed through the Religious Conversion Law that obliged the Eastern Orthodox in Croatia to convert to Catholicism if they wanted to remain alive.

On May 9, the Serbian Metropolitan of Zagreb was arrested.

On June 2, the Ustase shut down all of the Serbs’ primary schools and preschools.

On June 22, Mile Budak announced during a speech in Gospic: “We shall slaughter one third of the Serbs, deport another third, and force the last third into Roman Catholicism and thus make them Croats. We shall destroy every trace of their having ever been, and all that will be left of them will be a bad memory. For Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies, we have three million bullets!”

And the principal architect of all these laws, directives, and impassioned speeches—which marked the beginning of the extermination of all Serbian, or Eastern Orthodox clergy in Croatia—was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Zagreb, Alojzije Stepinac; who couldn’t resist adding his own definition of the Eastern Orthodox Serbs as “renegades from the Catholic Church” and welcoming the new law.

* * *

The following address to the people of Staza by the Catholic priest Dionizije Juricević, to whose village he’d been sent by Stepinac to forcibly re-baptize its Eastern Orthodox residents as Catholics, will be instructive: “I’m well aware where those who reject my Baptism will be sent. I’ve already ‘cleansed’ the southern lands—from infants to elders. And I’m ready to do the same here if necessary, because today there’ll be no sin in killing a seven-year-old child, should he be impeding the progress of our Croatian regime. Just disregard my priestly vestments. Know that if need be, I too can take a submachine gun and annihilate anyone who would continue to resist the state and the Ustase authorities.

* * *

That was the atmosphere in which the conversion, or to be more exact the forced conversion of Serbs to Catholicism was to be be carried out.

And Archbishop Stepinac, who would eventually be able to inform the Pope that thus far, 240,000 Serbs had been ‘converted’ to Catholicism, directed all this with great enthusiasm.

Moreover, he was delighted one day to receive a personal letter from Pope Pius XII thanking him and his priests for their efforts to convert the “schismatics”.

* * *

In his report, Vasilik goes on to cite from the biographies of some of the resulting Serbian martyrs.

“On the night of May 5, 1941, the Croatian Ustase seized the sick Bishop Platon of Banja Luka, killed him, and cast his corpse into the River Vrbanja.”

* * *

“On May 6, Archpriest Branko was captured by the Ustase, along with his son Nebojsa, a medical student, Father Dimitrije Skorupan, rector of the parish at Cvijanovic Brdo, and some 500 other Serbs.

“At the police station in Veljun, they were severely tortured—especially Fr. Branko’s son Nebojsa.

“The Ustase tried to force Fr. Dobrosavljevic to perform a funeral service over Nebojsa, who was still alive at the time; but he refused.

“On the morning of May 7, all of them were brought to the woods of Kestenovac, near Hrvatski Blagaj, and killed.”

* * *

“At the beginning of the German occupation of Yugoslavia, Metropolitan Petar was advised to leave Sarajevo for several days and wait until the end of the first wave of the Croatian terror, but he decided to remain with his people.

“After giving explanations to the German and Croatian authorities along with the Catholic Bishop Bozidar Brale, the Metropolitan was caught and on May 12, incarcerated at the prison in Sarajevo prison.

“Following trials in Zagreb and Gospic, Petar was put to death at the Jasenovac Concentration Camp.”

* * *

The number of Orthodox Serbs murdered by the Ustase is still the subject of much debate.

According to the Synodal Commission of the Serbian Orthodox Church, 800,000 were killed, 300,000 expelled, and 240,000 forced to convert to Catholicism.

But the actual death toll is probably higher, since the Croats are on record as having put to death 700,000 people in Jasenovac alone. Most of those were Orthodox Serbs, and the rest Jews and Gypsies.

* * *

Jasenovac wasn’t the only concentration camp; there was also the Jadovno camp where, according to various estimates, between 45,000 and 75,000 people were put to death.

* * *

Some 70,000 more, mainly women, were also exterminated at the Stara Gradiska camp; while it’s worth noting that this camp was run entirely by Catholic nuns.

* * *

We shouldn’t fail to also mention the Slana Camp on the Croatian island of Pag, where the Ustase is known to have killed killed around 10,000 Serbs.

These are just some of the known twenty Croatian camps where the Ustase tried to deliberately annihilate Serbs; in fact, many Serbs never even reached the camps.

* * *

The way that concentration camp prisoners died was often horrific.

Some died of famine, backbreaking labor, and epidemics, while others were executed by shooting; but the majority were killed with cold steel: the Ustase would cut their throats with special knives known as ‘Serb-cutters’, fracture their skulls with hammers, use knives to cut off their hands, legs, fingers, ears, lips, put out their eyes, hack off women’s breasts.

It was reported that one Ustase soldier wore beads made of Serb eyes; and another one, a belt with Serb tongues hanging from it.

* * *

It can’t be stressed enough that Pavelic was a devout Catholic. Even later, in exile in Argentina he would listen to the mass every day.

He imagined the state of Croatia as a bastion of Catholicism in opposition to Eastern Orthodoxy, Islam, and Communism. He viewed himself as a ‘staunch fighter’ for traditional Catholicism, and called upon his comrades-in-arms to be ruthless in stamping out the Church’s rivals.

Yet he couldn’t have accomplished very much without the help of the hundreds of Catholic priests, monks and nuns who actually took the most active part in the Serbian genocide.

Indeed, the second Commandant of the notorious Jasenovac camp was a Franciscan priest named Miroslav Filipovic, noted for carrying a pistol everywhere that he went.

“Every night,” Vasilik reports, “he left his house to slaughter and returned at dawn with his vestments stained with blood.

“Once when a prisoner was led up to Filipovic while he was dining, he stood up and coolly murdered him, then sat down and finished his dinner, saying: ‘Call a grave digger.’”

“It was said that he actually enjoyed drinking his victims’ blood, repeatedly saying, “This is Communist and Jewish blood! Let me drink my fill!”

* * *

“Nor was he the only clergyman-butcher at Jasenovac Camp. There were also the infamous monk-guards Majstorovic, Brkljanic, and Bulanovic, who’d sometimes kill the camp’s prisoners just for sport.

* * *

Franciscan monks carried out mass executions in the villages of Drakulic and Sargovac near Banja Luka, where about 2,000 Serbs were slaughtered.

* * *

A Ustase detachment that carried out “ethnic cleansing” of Serbs was commanded by monk Avgustin Cevola, who’d always be found with a gun in his hand.

* * *

Monk Sidonije Scholz forcibly converted many Serbs to Catholicism, and was never afraid to massacre Serbian priests or laity who resisted him.

* * *

Mate Mogus, a Catholic priest from Udbina, gave a sermon calling on the faithful to expel all the Serbs from Croatia, or as necessary simply exterminate them.

* * *

According to the International Commission for the Truth on Jasenovac Camp, 1,400 Catholic priests—two thirds of the total number—were involved in the genocide there.

And their barbarous cruelty went beyond all bounds, so that even the Germans—who wouldn’t hesitate to shoot 100 Serbian captives for any German soldier lost—finally had to intervene: eventually executing a priest, along with several Ustase for mass atrocities against the Serbs.

* * *

Apologists of the Catholic Church have tried to whitewash Archbishop Stepinac, claiming that he either didn’t know about the horrific crimes of his clergy or actively struggled against them.

Neither version holds water. Stepinac was a well-informed man and too power-hungry not to have control of his own diocese—while as the leader of the military clergy in Croatia, he did absolutely nothing to prevent those under his authority from committing their heinous crimes.

More than that, he awarded his murderers with icons and crosses instead of excommunicating them, and supported the Ustaše leader Pavelić, accepted his awards, backed up his authoritarian program in every way, and publicly encouraged all that was going on in Croatia at the time.

* * *

After the war, the Vatican took active part in an operation to help the Ustase, including Catholic clerics, escape justice.

Through its support, a large number of Ustase leaders and the clerics who’d collaborated with them fled from Croatia and hid in Rome.

* * *

It can’t be ruled out that Pavelic escaped punishment due to Pius XII’s intercession—especially since when an American intelligence officer came looking for him, the Pope quickly insisted on the officer’s deportation.

* * *

Nonetheless, a number of the Croatian butchers, including those in cassocks, did receive their just punishment.

After the war, the Yugoslav authorities arrested and prosecuted several hundred Catholic priests as war criminals, convicted many of them, and sentenced them to death.

* * *

Of course, Archbishop Stepinac too was brought to trial, if only for his collaboration and involvement in the genocide, and was convicted and sentenced to sixteen years of hard labor in prison.

However, he served only five before being exempted from penal servitude, and was later confined to simple house arrest in his native village.

* * *

By the standards of those stern days he got off with nothing more than a good fright; in time was actually declared a Catholic martyr and a victim of Communism; and in 1998, was beatified by John Paul II, and then as a saint by Pope Francis.

The canonization of Stepinac was of course tantamount to spitting on the hundreds of thousands of victims of the genocide unleashed by the Ustase, but also to the Vatican admitting of its involvement in those crimes.

* * *

Pope Pius XII not only didn’t react to the terror in Croatia—albeit he was well-informed about it—he didn’t see fit to excommunicate any of the executioners; on top of which, he was a long-standing supporter of the inhuman ways of the Ustase in the world arena, and preferred to help hundreds, if not thousands of war criminals escape.

* * *

At present, the official historians of the Roman Catholic Church tend to portray the genocide of Serbs in Croatia as but a result of tribal strife and extreme nationalism, in which the Catholic Church wasn’t at all involved.


Sources

Christian Atrocities, citing A. Manhattan, The Vatican’s Holocaust, Springfield 1986 https://stellarhousepublishing.com/

Wikipedia, Ustashe https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ustashe

Christian Atrocities, citing A. Manhattan, The Vatican’s Holocaust, Springfield 1986 https://stellarhousepublishing.com/

Christian Atrocities, citing V. Dedijer, The Yugoslav Auschwitz and the Vatican, Buffalo NY, 1992 https://stellarhousepublishing.com/

Orthodox Christianity, The Role of the Roman Catholic Church in the Genocide of Serbs on the Territory of the Independent State of Croatia https://orthochristian.com/114594.html

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