Saturday, 3 July 2021

Serb National Council Unveils Memorial to Victims of Ustasha WWII Crime

ZAGREB, 3 July 2021 - The Serb National Council (SNV) unveiled in Donja Suvaja on Saturday a monument to the victims of a crime committed by the Ustasha on 1 July 1941, with SNV president Milorad Pupovac saying "the crime in Donja Suvaja, Osredci and Bubanj was one big evil."

"On 1 July 1941, the Ustasha, led by Maks Luburić, savagely tortured and killed women, children and older inhabitants in Donja Suvaja. We are erecting this monument on the 80th anniversary, in memory of their lives and horrific moment od death, but with faith in the idea of man's victory over hate," it says on the monument alongside the names of 290 victims.

According to an SNV statement, the crime in Donja Suvaja was one of the first mass crimes against women and children committed by the Ustasha, followed by a campaign of cleansing the Lika region, which resulted in an uprising of the people of Lika.

Pupovac said most of the 290 victims were women and children, while the rest were infirm and old. He said the crime took "only two hours" and that Luburić "decided to go a step further" by killing the victims "in the worst possible way, by slaughter and massacre."

"From 29 June 1941 until the beginning of July, all the worst methods were applied here, all the worst procedures seen in war, persecutions and forced resettlement," he added.

Pupovac said Lika also had been the site of the first Ustasha death camp, Jadovno, "which claimed dozens of thousands of lives in less than two months of operation."

"This was not a death factory as with some other peoples in World War II. Donja Suvaja was a horrible hate crime, a crime of extermination."

Pupovac reiterated that the Ustasha salute "For the homeland ready" was the "most shameful salute in Croatian history and the most shameful expression of the Croatian people's striving for its freedom," adding that it "was not, nor could in be, nor is anything else but a symbol of hate and crime." 

He commended the state leadership's decision to "dedicate more attention to antifascism (this year), as never before, which we could see at Brezovica, where the first Partizan detachment came together."

"Everyone must realise that the blood and meat of that movement, said to have been the largest in Europe, was right here. The souls of these women, children and older people, and of those who since that moment never gave up, from 27 July, until the area of freedom had spread across the whole country at that time, including Croatia, are our anti-fascism," said Pupovac.

He called out "the high-ranking Croatian officials who, at recent commemorations, have been pardoning the crimes and criminals in this last war, just because they are our boys." He called on them not to downplay crimes because "that insults all of us who remember as citizens of this country."

The memorial in Donja Suvaja was erected as part of the SNV's culture of remembrance programme with funds from the government's office of human and national minority rights.

For more on politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated politics page.

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Documenta Organises Zagreb Tour on 80th Anniversary of NDH

April 10, 2021- The Documenta Centre for Dealing with the Past on Saturday organized a tour of Zagreb locations linked to suffering in WWII, starting outside the building of the USKOK anti-fraud office to prompt USKOK to put up an information plaque on the building from which, it said, "the Holocaust and the NDH started."

On 10 April 1941, Slavko Kvaternik proclaimed the NDH (Independent State of Croatia) in that building which then housed Radio Zagreb.

"The NDH was responsible for the Holocaust against Jews, the genocide against Serbs and Roma. We think it's essential that new generations in particular, as well as all those passing this building, know what happened inside," Documenta head Vesna Teršelič said before this, the second memorial walk.

Documenta expects USKOK to put up the plaque and the City of Zagreb to mark the locations of suffering and resistance so that new generations can learn what a criminal regime the NDH was, that the Nazis and fascists appointed its head Ante Pavelić and that it was a regime of terror, Teršelič said.

"That was a regime of which we are ashamed today, and this shame should be an important part of our identity because the condemnation of those crimes should be the starting point of our thinking and discussions," she said.

It is very important that all generations resolutely condemn the Ustasha crimes and the criminal NDH, which includes banning the "For the homeland ready" salute and Ustasha insignia, she added.

Teršelič said the ruling majority's will was necessary to ban the salute and that the ruling majority should do so this year.

Puhovski: Who is ashamed of our history is a moral idiot

Žarko Puhovski, a political analyst, said Pavelić was one of the most significant Croats in history and that "who doesn't understand that doesn't understand Croatian history, and who isn't ashamed of that is a moral idiot."

Puhovski, whose initiative for USKOK to put up the plaque on its building, said there were still many people who were not ashamed, adding that one could not take from history only what one liked.

He said Croatia's present-day stand on the NDH "is neutral as much as possible and negative when it must be."

A legal ban of the Ustasha salute is pointless as long as "we have the Ustasha kuna," he said, referring to the name of the national currency, the kuna.

The building housing USKOK is linked to another historic day, 8 May 1945, when the Partisan army entered Zagreb and sent its forces to Radio Zagreb to announce that "the glorious units of the Yugoslav army" had entered the capital, Documenta said, adding that the third memorial walk would be held on 8 May.

For more news about Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Memorial Tour of WWII Sites Organised in Zagreb

ZAGREB, 27 March 2021- A memorial tour of Zagreb sites associated with the Nazi-allied Ustasha regime that ruled Croatia during the Second World War was organized on Saturday ahead of the 80th anniversary of the start of the war in the country.

The topic of anti-fascist resistance is not represented enough in school, even though topics relating to the Ustashas and Partisans are frequent in political and social life, said Tena Banjeglav, one of the authors of the guide "Zagreb in War, Resistance, Artistic Creation and Memory" who took part in the tour.

Students know little about what was going on in Zagreb during Ustasha rule and never heard of most of the 50 locations in the city associated with the Ustasha regime. This guide should help them learn more about the sites such as the present-day Student Centre and the secondary school in Križanićeva Street, Banjeglav told the press.

The Student Centre was a transit campsite where about 2,500 Jews and many Serbs and communists were held before being transported onto the camps at Koprivnica, Gospić, Jadovno, Pag island Jasenovac.

Because of the restrictions in place to contain the coronavirus pandemic, only 25 people took part in the tour - teachers, students, diplomats, and university professors. MP Vili Matula joined them.

The head of the Documenta NGO, Vesna Teršelič, said she was pleased that they were joined by the Austrian ambassador and officials of the US Embassy, which helped prepare the guide and the Australian Embassy.

She announced that the next memorial walks would be held on 10 April, the day on which the Ustasha-ruled Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was proclaimed in 1941, and on 8 May, the day of the liberation of Zagreb in 1945. She invited members of the public to sign up for the tour.

Teršelič said that the guide would be formally launched online on 6 April at 11 am when the Second World War began.

To read more news from Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

The Dalmatian Islands During WWII: 75th Anniversary of the Brač Raid

May 21, 2019 - During the winter of 1943/44, following the Italian capitulation, the Germans mounted a ferocious offensive to keep control of the Adriatic coast and protect their southern flank from Allied attack. Encircling Tito’s main forces in Western Bosnia, they flooded into the Dalmatian coast. By 21 December they were on Korcula and by 19 January they were on Hvar. They had driven before them large numbers of refugees, mostly the very young and the elderly, swelling the islands’ population by more than 15,000, most of them on Hvar.

Fitzroy Maclean, SOE’s envoy to Tito, had persuaded Churchill to respond s to the Partisan leader’s request for assistance by deploying a large group of Royal Navy Commandos alongside US troops on Vis.  It was clear to the Allies, though, that the refugees would have to be evacuated before serious fighting could ensue. Paul Bradbury’s for TCN article of Nov 2011 tells the story of the transport of thousands of refugees in severe hardship to Bari and thence to Egypt to the refugee camp at El Shatt. That freed the Allies to mount increasingly heavy raids on German island garrisons.


By May 1944, there were more than 10,000 troops on Vis, including Royal Marine Commandos 40 and 43, a Battalion of Highland Light Infantry, US Special Forces, and the Partisans’ 1st and 13th Dalmatian Brigades (including several hundred men and women from Hvar). An airstrip had been laid out to accommodate a flight of Hurricanes and Spitfires. The allied Commanders were indeed considering capturing Hvar and Brač to create a logistical “bridge” between Vis and the mainland.

Their planning was disrupted when the Germans suddenly struck a massive blow against Tito at his HQ in Drvar in Western Bosnia. At dawn on 25 May, five squadrons of Junkers bombers flattened the town, preceding an airborne attack by a full Battalion of SS Paratroopers. Simultaneously, the whole region was encircled by German and NDH troops. Tito escaped the immediate attack but still had to fight his way out of the wider trap that was being set. British SOE officers attached to his HQ radioed the news to Vis. Tito was demanding that all Partisan units attack the Germans wherever they could and pleaded for similar action from the British.  On Vis, British and Partisan Commanders agreed on an immediate response: an amphibious attack on the island of Brač. It was to become the biggest Allied action in Yugoslavia during the entire war. The following is drawn from Commando records at the National Archives in Kew.

At 02.00 on 1 June, a Company of the Scottish were landed from Partisan schooners. They sailed round Hvar to Blaca cove on the South-West side of Brač. Their task was to eliminate an Observation Post on Vidova Gora, the highest point on the island, from which the Germans would have a clear view of the Allied landing zones along the south coast.

The Scots climbed up over the limestone ridges, each man carrying 60 lbs of weapons and supplies, and laid up for the rest of the day. At midnight, they attacked the German Observation Post. They came under heavy fire from concrete emplacements on which their mortar and stun gunfire had little effect. They cut the German telephone wires, fell back, reformed, and made a further determined attack, but were repulsed with heavy casualties. They had run into a barbed wire enclosure, heavily mined, surrounding the German position. All of their officers and ncos’s were either wounded or killed. Under heavy fire, they withdrew, making their way down the screen and winding tracks assisted by Partisan guides.

The main forces were landed unobserved at 00.30 on 2 June. 1,500 Partisans and 400 Commandos were landed at Blaca. The main task of this group was to destroy the German Command Post on a hilltop near Nerežišća in the centre of the island of Brač, overlooking their garrisons at Supetar on the north side and Sumartin at the eastern end of the island. Another 1,400 Partisans landed at Bol with the task of preventing the Germans from emerging from Sumartin. From dawn and throughout the day, the Partisans attacked Nerežišća, supported British artillery and air strikes by Spitfires from Vis. The Commandos joined the Partisan and made a more determined attack but failed to take their objective.

British Commandos carried out a further assault that night. Their leader was the eccentric Lieutenant Colonel Jack Churchill (no relation to the Prime Minister). Their attack was launched at 21.15 and pursued with great determination but after gaining part of the hill they were driven back. An hour later, Churchill led them on a further attack, playing his bagpipes as was his habit. They briefly took the German position but again the Germans reacted with mortar fire and counterattacked. Two troop leaders and a Lieutenant Colonel were killed. Churchill was wounded and taken prisoner with 35 of his men.

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The German positions on the island consisted of an inner circle of rock and concrete linked by trenches and surrounded by minefields within barbed wire enclosures. They were killing zones. Nevertheless, the British had breached the barbed wire, crossed the minefields and engaged the enemy in their trenches until they ran out of ammunition. They then broke off, dragging their wounded with them. Evacuation began at 0600 that morning and a couple of hours later the surviving combatants were back on Vis.  

The raid achieved its immediate objective.  German forces were diverted from encircling Tito’s troops and the British got him out and flew him to Vis where he set up his headquarters. But a heavy price was paid. The British had lost their senior officers and nearly all their troop leaders, 16 men in all. Many of their 250 wounded would never fight again. The Partisans, who reported 130 Germans killed and 130 taken prisoners, lost 200. Moreover, there was no longer any need to establish a bridgehead to supply the Partisans on the mainland. The tide had turned. The biggest seaborne invasion in history was about to take place in Normandy, heralding the liberation of Europe from Nazi occupation and contributing to Allied victory on the Western Front.