Chapter 7


As Ustashi racialism had embarked upon a policy of Serbian extermination, it followed that its twin counterpart, Catholicism, could do no less than embark upon the extermination of its main religious foe: the Orthodox Church. State and Church, consequently, to implement their mutual scheme of total racial-religious exclusiveness, set out to pursue parallel policies, epitomized in the extermination of the racial elements, the Serbs, by the political authorities, and in that of the religious elements, the Orthodox, by the Catholic Hierarchy.

The Catholic Church did not leave the execution of a religious war to the secular arm, as she had done in similar circumstances in bygone centuries. She came down into the fighting field, full tilt, shunning precautions and brandishing the sword against those whom she had decided to exterminate, with a directness that had not been seen for a long time. Many of the Ustashi formations were officered by Catholic priests, and often by friars, who had taken an oath to fight with dagger and gun for the "triumph of Christ and Croatia." Many of them did not hesitate to carry out the most infamous tasks, glorying in deeds that would have filled with shame any average "heathen or barbarian from the East." All in the name of religion. Thus, while some, as we have already seen, took charge of concentration camps, others led the armed Ustashi in the closing of Orthodox churches, in the confiscation of Orthodox records, in the persecution, arrest, and, yes, even in the murder of Orthodox people, including Orthodox priests. At Banjaluka, for instance, an official order directed that all the Orthodox Church records of marriages, baptisms, and burials be delivered forthwith to Catholic parishes, while at Pakrac Catholic priests took possession of the Serbian Bishop's residence, following the locking and sealing of the Orthodox cathedral (April 12, 1941).

Orthodox churches were converted into halls—e.g. that of Prnjavor, on July 10, 1941. Others were transformed into Catholic churches, when they were not pulled down altogether—e.g. in the provinces of Lika, Banija, and Kordun, where 172 churches were totally destroyed. Orthodox monasteries shared the same fate. At Fruska Gora fifteen Serbian Orthodox monasteries and churches were given to Catholic monks of the Franciscan order, as was also done with the Church properties at Orahovica, Pakrac, Lepavina, and other places. The monastery of Vrdnik-Ravanica, wherein were buried the remains of King Lazar, who led and died in the historical battle of Kosovo against the Turks in 1389 in defense of Christianity, was also taken over, as was Sremski Karlovci, the former seat of the Orthodox Patriarchate. There the great cathedral was first plundered of all valuables, then closed, after all its physical properties had been taken over by the Catholic Bishop. Within a short period 250 Orthodox churches were pillaged or destroyed. In the diocese of Diakovo, mentioned before, twenty-eight Orthodox churches became Catholic churches.

Together with the destruction of Orthodox churches, Catholic ferocity struck at the very backbone of the Orthodox Church: i.e. at the Orthodox clergy. Orthodox priests were imprisoned, sent to concentration camps, hunted down, or simply massacred. Hundreds of them, including Orthodox Bishops, perished, only because they were priests of the religion hostile to the "true Church."

Orthodox priests, before being executed or hanged, were often horribly tortured—e.g. priest Branko Dobrosavljevich, from Veljun, who was compelled to read the obituary of his own son, whom the Ustashi first killed in his presence, this preceding his own torture and death, which became the signal for the mass execution of hundreds of Orthodox inside the Orthodox churches of Kladusa, Veljun, Slusnica, Primislje, and other places. On April 20, 1941, in the village of Svinjica, the Ustashi arrested the Orthodox priest, Babic, and after torturing him buried him in an upright position to his waist in the ground. Within a few weeks the Ustashi and Catholic priests murdered 135 Orthodox priests, of whom eighty-five came from one diocese.

The higher clergy were not spared. On the night of June 5, 1941, on orders from the Ustashi chief, Gutic, the Orthodox Bishop Platon, of Banjaluka in Western Bosnia, together with several Orthodox priests, some of whom were former members of the House of Representatives, was taken to the outskirts of the town by the Ustashi. There the old Bishop's beard was torn out, a fire lit on his naked chest, then, after prolonged torture, he and all his companions were killed with hatchets, and their bodies thrown into the Vrbanja River.

Dositej, Orthodox Bishop of Zagreb, capital of the Independent State of Croatia, where Archbishop Stepinac had his residence, lost his reason as a result of the tortures inflicted upon him before his expulsion to Belgrade. Three Orthodox Bishops, Peter Zimonjic of Sarajevo, Sava Trlajic of Plaski, and Platon of Banjaluka, were murdered. [1]

Numerous Catholic priests and monks, some of whom were not even attached to the Ustashi formations, carried out indiscriminate executions with their own hands. Many of them methodically and with precision took part in the most incredible orgies of blood. Canon Ivan Mikan, already mentioned, made daily rounds of the prison and mercilessly beat Orthodox Serbs with a bull-whip, scolding the Ustashi for being lax in their work, personally ordering that the Orthodox monastery of Gomirje be looted and its inmates sent to a concentration camp, where they were all executed. Fra Anto, a Catholic priest of Tramosnjica, organized Ustashi bands with the object of capturing as many Orthodox Serbs as he could, whom very often he tortured personally, as he did at Brcko. Simic Vjekoslav, a monk of the monastery at Knin, personally killed numerous Orthodox. Sidonije Sole, a monk of the Franciscan monastery in Nasice, deported the Orthodox population of whole villages, while the Catholic priests Guncevic and Marjanovich Dragutin, in addition to acting as police officials, ordered the arrest of hundreds of Orthodox, whom they tortured and then killed, taking an active personal part in their execution.[2] German Castimir, abbot of the monastery in Guntic personally directed the mass murder of the Orthodox Serbs of Glina, a hundred of whom were murdered inside the Orthodox church there. The names of many others have been put on record by the Serbian Eastern Orthodox diocese of the USA and Canada, by the Orthodox Church of Yugoslavia, by the Yugoslav Government, and by other official agencies.[3]

The purpose of all this terror was to destroy the enemies of Catholicism. Yet, while the Catholic Church, whenever given total power, can become a ruthless destroyer of her enemies, bursting with dreams of expansion, she can simultaneously follow a no less ruthless campaign of absorption. Absorption can be accomplished by only one means: by conversion.

In the village of Mikleus, 1942, a Catholic parish priest "converting" in bulk hundreds of peasants.

Many Catholic priests were at the head of the Ustashi. Witness priest Mate Mogus, of the parish of Udbina, in the province of Like. "We Catholics," he told the to be forcibly converted Serbs, "until now have worked for Catholicism with the cross and with the book of the Mass. The day has come, however, to work with the revolver and with the gun."

Father D. Juric, a Franciscan, was appointed head of a Ministry charged with plans for the systematic conversion of all those Orthodox who bad been spared from Concentration Camps or massacre.

Most of the forcible conversions were duly announced by diocesan bulletins. Witness, Katolicki List, organ of the Bishopric of Zagreb, controlled by Archbisbop Stepinac. In its issue No. 31, 1941, it reported that "a new parish of over 2,300 souls" bad been created in the village of Budinci, as a result of the entire village having been re-christened to the Catholic Faith. Collective resistance was met by ruthless collective punishment.

"Converting" the Orthodox Serbs, December 21st, 1941, Friars, besides Priests, participated in forcible conversions. They were no less ruthless than the parish clergy, e.g. Monk Ambrozjie Novak, Guardian of the Capucine Monastery in Varazdin, who, utter surrounding the village of Mostanica with Ustashi contingents, told the people: "You Serbs are condemned to death, and you can only escape that sentence by accepting Catholicism."

Catholic Padres did not hesitate to liquidate those who resisted. Witness Father Dr. Dragutin Kamber, a Jesuit priest and a sworn Ustashi, who ordered the killing of 300 Orthodox Serbs in Doboj and the court martial of 250 more, most of whom were shot. Or Father Dr. Branimir Zupanic, who had more than 400 people killed in one village alone: Ragoije. Father Srecko Peric, of the Gorica Monastery, near Livno, advocated mass murders with the following words: "Kill all Serbs. And when you finish come here, to the Church, and I will confess you and free you from sin." This resulted in a massacre, on August 10th, 1941, during which over 5,600 Orthodox Serbs in the district of Livno alone lost their lives.

A Franciscan monk converting Orthodox villagers in Mikleus, near Kutina.

On their murderous expeditions, the Ustashi were always accompanied by Catholic Padres—most of these themselves Ustashi officers—whose task was to supervise the operations and, above all, to ensure that the Orthodox Serbs were converted to the Catholic Church. Conversion meant the avoidance of arrest, loss of property and even of life.

Father Dionizio Juric, Ante Pavelic's confessor, was quite blunt about it. "Any Serb who refuses to become a Catholic should be condemned to death," he declared at Staza, in the district of Banjia.

With Catholic storm troopers nearby the threat was a reality. There were instances where those who refused conversion were executed on the spot. Witness the case of Father Ilja Tomas, of the village of Klepac, who promised safety to the fleeing Orthodox if they became Catholics. Because they changed their minds, however, the Ustashi murdered the lot.

The Orthodox churches became the main targets of the Catholic storm troopers, the Ustashi, and even of the Catholic clergy. These churches were seized, evacuated, closed, transformed into Catholic churches, or burned down altogether.

In the province of Lika, Banija and Kordum, in 1941, 172 Orthodox churches were totally destroyed.. At Fruska Gora, 15 Orthodox monasteries and churches were given to Franciscans. Out of 189 churches in the diocese of Gornjo Karlovachka, 175 were destroyed or burned down.

There were cases when the Ustashi, after having shut the Orthodox worshippers inside their church, set fire to the building. The worshippers were machine gunned when attempting to escape. Thousands perished in this way, killed by bullets, falling masonry, or burned alive.

In 1941 Glina witnessed such a spectacle. The photograph shows the remains of an Orthodox church burned there by the Ustashi with about 2,000 men, women and children who had gone to pray in it.

Catholic Brothers, and Monks, when visiting villages to "convert" the Orthodox population, were always escorted by the heavily armed Catholic storm troopers, the Ustashi.

The terrible reputation of the Ustashi for ruthlessness was often sufficient to "persuade" people to embrace the Catholic Church and their bayonets helped the Catholic Padres to baptize those who hesitated. The alternative, the preachers warned, was seizure of their property, arrest, concentration camps, or even execution.

Father Franjo Pipinic, the parish priest of Pozega, for instance, towards the end of 1941 converted thousands, "assisted" by the Ustashi Captain Peranovic. He always began and ended his sermons by explaining that "conversion" was the only way to stay alive. The sight of the grim, armed Ustashi nearby induced whole communities of Orthodox to embrace the "true" Church.

The Commission for Investigating War Crimes reported how hundreds of cases of such Catholic "persuasion" had occurred throughout Croatia. Above, Franciscan Padre, Bozidar Braie, is seen while delivering a sermon to the soon to be converted Orthodox congregation at Zemun, July 12, 1942, escorted by Ustashi. The large letter "U" on the open air pulpit stands for "Ustashi."

The Franciscan Monk, Father Miroslav Filipovic. Left as a priest, wearing his cassock. Right, in Ustashi uniform. Father Filipovic was the Commandant of the terrible concentration camp at Jasenovac.

Father Filipovic, chief ecclesiastical murderer of Croatia, although a Monk of the Order of St. Francis, was a fanatical Ustashi long before the Second World War. His political and religious ruthlessness can be judged by the fact that, while addressing a battalion of the armed Ustashi in the village of Drakulic, he killed an Orthodox child with his own hands.

Resenting the Orthodox reluctance to be "re-baptized," he told the armed Ustashi to "re-Christen these degenerates in the name of God. You follow my example." One thousand five hundred Orthodox Serbs were executed in one single day.

As Commandant of the Jasenovac Concentration Camp, Father Filipovic, aided by Father Zvonko Brekalo, Father Z. Lipovac, and Father Culina, caused the death of 40,000 men, women and children during the period of his administration.

The non-Catholic population in Catholic Croatia were given two basic alternatives: conversion or death. Their churches were closed, parish documents destroyed, ecclesiastical buildings burned down. Orthodox worshippers very often were arrested inside their own churches, and kept there or in local halls while awaiting their fate: i.e. forcible conversion, concentration camps or execution. Their survival, more often than not, depended upon the whim of the Ustashi Commandants of the Catholic Padres accompanying them.

There were occasions, however, when the Orthodox Serbs were given no chance at all to escape with their lives. Some Catholic Priests being implacable. Witness the Abbot of the Monastery in Guntic, Father German Castimir, who personally directed the mass murder of the Orthodox Serbs of Glina, a hundred of whom were massacred inside their Orthodox Church there.

In this photograph, Orthodox worshippers inside their church at Hrvatska Dubica, prior to their all being murdered, August 21, 1941.

Once inside the sundry concentration camps, the inmates were still liable, not only to be tortured, but to be executed as well. The camp Commandants had unwritten authorization to kill anyone taken there. Indeed, to quote Ljubo Milos, Commandant of the Jasenovac Concentration Camp, there was "an agreement" that all prisoners sentenced to three years were to be "liquidated" at once.

By virtue of this, inmates at times were murdered indiscriminately without even the slightest legal excuse. Justification for mass killings was sometimes of the flimsiest nature.

For example, on September 15, 1941, all those inmates of the Jasenovac Camp unable to work, numbering between 600 and 700, were executed. In the Camp of Stara Gradiska, 1000 women were killed. In the Krapje Camp in October 1941, 4000 prisoners were murdered. To save themselves physical trouble, at times the Ustashi used typhus, e.g. in March 1943 the inmates of the Djakovo Camp were purposely infected with typhus, causing the death of 567 persons.

In the photograph, corpses of victims taken out of water wells at the Lepoglava Camp.

Bodies of Orthodox Serbs executed by the Ustashi contingents at Sinj on August 26,1941.

The Ustashi perpetrated countless mass murders on the slightest pretext, it being the official policy of their Government to get rid of the Orthodox Serbian population in their midst, since Catholic Croatia must be inhabited ONLY by Catholics.

By virtue of such a principle, the Ustashi arrested, tortured and slaughtered their Orthodox prisoners without pity. This even when the prisoners had been designated to Concentration Camps. Witness the case of the 5,000 Orthodox prisoners who, in August 1942, having been assigned to the notorious Concentration Camp of Jasenovac, were decimated by the Ustashi en route. Two thousand of them were murdered in cold blood. Those who survived were transferred to Gradina, where on August 28,1942 they were all put to death by the Ustashi with the butts of their rifles and with hammers. The corpses were then buried in common graves or cremated in rudimentary ovens.

The Ustashi not only detained, arrested and "punished" people whom they considered hostile, they tortured and even executed them, regardless of any legal justification.

During their first years of indiscriminate power they carried out numberless executions. Single individuals or small groups were punished or massacred on the spot. Whole Orthodox families were wiped out. More often than not, the pleading victims were not spared, even when some of them, to save their lives, made ready to be "re-baptized" into the Catholic Church. Later on such willingness saved thousands on the advice of the Catholic padres, who accompanied the Ustashi contingents.

In 1945, however, when the fall of Independent Catholic Croatia loomed inevitable, the fleeing Ustashi resumed their ancient ruthlessness and massacred without any discrimination. When retreating from Sisak, for instance, they massacred the 380 prisoners of that camp in cold blood. The victims were then hurled into the river. This photo shows some of the corpses of those thus murdered on the banks of the Sava.

Another case of throat cutting, which took place in Croatia in 1943. The photograph was found in the pocket of a dead Ustashi. One of his companions is holding up the already severed head of a victim, for his friend to take a photo.

The Ustashi committed the most execrable crimes with the utmost indifference. Frequently they amused themselves with prolonging the tortures of their prisoners, to pass the time.

They did not spare women or children. To quote only one instance: In the villages between Vlasenica and Kladanj the Nazi occupational troops discovered children who had been impaled upon stakes by the Ustashi, their members still distorted with pain. Catholic priests, too, advocated the killing of children. Witness Father D. Juric. "Today it is no longer a sin to kill a child of seven," he said, "should such a child be opposed to our movement of the Ustashi."

Mass murders were supplemented by the massacre of individuals, mostly in rural districts. Instances of the utmost ferocity occurred. The Ustashi very often used the most primitive weapons, such as forks, spades, hammers and saws, to torture their victims prior to their execution. They broke their legs, pulled off their skin and beards, blinded them by cutting their eyes with knives and even tearing them from their sockets, as a survivor, Marija Bogunovitch, testified.

Sometimes executions were committed on the home ground of victims, carried out with conventional guns and revolvers. Some Ustashi specialized in disposing of their "charges" by crushing their skulls with hatchets or even hammers.

At Dubrovnick, Dalmatia, Fascist soldiers had photographs of an Ustashi wearing two necklaces. One was a string of cut-out eyes, the other of torn out tongues of murdered Orthodox Serbs.

In this photograph Ustashi are torturing an Orthodox Serb with a saw prior to executing him. Somewhere in Bosnia, in 1943. The photograph was found in the pocket of a dead Ustashi in 1945.

Indiscriminate mass deportations and muss executions became one of the most characteristic features of the Ustashi. Very often the life or death of the prisoners depended upon the whims of the local Commander or even the local Catholic priest.

Ustashi authorities would summon the Orthodox Serbs to perform public works or to listen to some new law. Once they were gathered in a given place, they would be surrounded, marched outside the village or town, and executed without further ado.

In the most remote regions of Upper Dalmatia, like Bosnia Herzegovina, there took place such veritable extermination. Women and children were not spared.

Some detachments of Ustashi, with the idea of saving themselves the trouble of burying the bodies, shot their victims on bridges. In Brcko, for instance, the home town of Deafer Kulenovic, the Ustashi Prime Minister, the Orthodox prisoners were all executed on the local bridge and then immediately hurled into the river.

This photograph shows the bodies of people executed by the Ustashi and flung into the river Kupa, in May 1945.

The Archbishop of Sarajevo, Dr. 1. Saric, giving the "Heil Hitler" with a group of Ustashi civilians and Nazi officers at the airport of Butmir, in 1943.

Archbishop Saric had been an Ustashi as early as 1934. He spoke, plotted and acted as the veritable Ustashi leader that he was. He exhorted his clergy to act as Ustashi and to "employ revolutionary methods to the service of truth (i.e. the Catholic Church), declaring that it was "unworthy of the disciples of Christ to think that the struggle...should be conducted...with gloves on."

Many Catholic priests, bishops and monks were sworn officers of the Ustashi, e.g. Father Ivan Miletic, who led guerrillas against the Central Government of Belgrade. Or Father Kadoslav Glavas, a Franciscan Monk, who on April 10 and 11, 1941, disarmed the local police and captured the Post Office. In Herzegovina, the centre of the Ustashi movement was a Franciscan monastery.

The Orthodox Church became one of the prime targets of Catholic Croatia, which, very often, used the German armies of occupation, outside Croatia, to round up obstinate Orthodox Serbs.

One of the most effective means of paralyzing any resistance of the Serbian Orthodox Church was that of asking the Nazi authorities to arrest the Orthodox clergy. The policy was carried out throughout Yugoslavia. The result was that soon Orthodox resistance became very weak and, in fact, in certain parts of occupied Yugoslavia, even tacitly cooperated to avoid deportation and even execution. The policy was carried out everywhere. In this picture Dr. Gavrilo Dozitch, the Orthodox Patriarch is arrested by the (Gestapo, in the convent of Ostrog, in Montenegro. The Ustashi cooperated with the Nazis wherever they could harass, embarrass and destroy the Orthodox Church, which they considered the mortal enemy of the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church has never believed in persuasion, which is used only when she cannot enjoy absolute power. Her actions have always been based on one of the most incontrovertible and typical Catholic dogmas: naked force. This, not only to smite, but also to convert. In Croatia she used force to do both, destruction and conversion having been, in all her wars of religion, two facets of the same grand strategy.

It was thus that, while demolishing Orthodox churches, while massacring Orthodox clergy and bishops, she was at the same time converting their congregations to Catholicism, using a "persuasion" behind which stood boycott, threats, force, and even death. Catholic priests became the natural leaders of this specialized operation, priests and monks competing to see who could convert most Orthodox to the "only true faith."The spirit in which the campaign was conducted can best be judged by a typical leaflet, issued in 1941, by the diocesan journal of Djakovo, which read:

The Lord Jesus Christ said that there shall be one pasture and one shepherd. Inhabitants of the Greek-Eastern faith, hear this friendly advice.... The Bishop of Djakovo has already received thousands of citizens in the Holy Catholic Church, and these citizens have received certificates of honesty from State authorities. Follow these brothers of yours, and report as soon as possible for re-Christening into the Catholic Church.

This was not a unique example of Catholic "persuasion" backed by the bayonet. Priests openly told Orthodox to become Catholics if they wished to avoid persecution, concentration camps, and extermination. Franjo Pipinic, priest of Pozega, for instance, carried out mass conversions of Serbs towards the end of 1941, with the assistance of the Ustashi Captain Peranovic, telling the Serbian people that acceptance of Catholicism was the only way in which they could save themselves from death in concentration camps. In the files of the Commission for Investigating War Crimes there are hundreds of cases of this "persuasion," of which we quote only a few.

One of the most fanatical missionaries for conversion was priest Ante Djuric, in the district of Dvor. He ordered the slaughter, plunder, and burning of many villages, and sent hundreds of Serbs to the concentration camp in Kostajnica. He personally mutilated and killed Serbs from Bosanska Kostajnica. In his speeches he always emphasized that the Serbs in his district "have only three ways out: to accept the Catholic faith, to move out, or to be cleansed with the metal broom."

Priest Ambrozije Novak, Guardian of the Capucine monastery in Varazdin, in 1941 went to the village of Mostanica, accompanied by Ustashi, and ordered the Serbian people to assemble, telling them: "You Serbs are condemned to death, and you can only escape that sentence by accepting Catholicism."

Priest Mate Mogus, of the parish of Udbina, in the province of Lika, was even more explicit: Until now, my brothers," he preached in his church, "we (the Catholics) have worked for our Catholic religion with the cross and the book of Mass; the day, however, has now come to work with the revolver and the gun." Some, however, wanted to use guns to bring an abundant crop of forcible conversions on a far larger scale. The words of Father Petar Pajic, published in the organ of the Archbishop of Sarajevo, bear witness to that: [4]

Until now, God spoke through papal encyclicals...And? They closed their ears.... Now God has decided to use other methods. He will prepare missions. European missions. World missions. They will be upheld, not by priests, but by army commanders, led by Hitler. The sermons will be heard, with the help of cannons, machine guns, tanks and bombers. The language of these sermons will be international.

Such sentiments were shared by priests holding the most influential positions—e.g. Mgr. Dionizije Juric, one of the heads of the Ministry of Cults, and, more important still, the confessor of none other than Ante Pavelic himself. When in Staza, in the district of Banija, Father Juric put the matter of forcible conversions in a nutshell: Any Serb who refused to become Catholic should be condemned to death, he said, because "today it is no longer a sin to kill a child of seven, should such a child be opposed to our movement of the Ustashi."

The Ustashi had committed and were committing massacres beyond counting. Yet the devout Catholic Mile Budak, in an address at Karlovac on July 13, 1941, did not hesitate to declare that "the movement of the Ustashi is based upon religion." Catholics who had any qualms about it could reassure themselves simply by examining the professions of many of the leaders of the Ustashi, a great proportion of whom were monks, priests, and even bishops—e.g. Dr. Ivan Saric, the Archbishop of Sarajevo, an Ustashi since 1934. This pillar of the Holy Catholic Church, as soon as Catholic terror descended upon Croatia, spoke and acted as the veritable Ustashi that he was, inciting his subordinate clergy to act as Ustashi, and indeed, "to employ revolutionary methods to the service of the truth, of justice and of honour"; words which he repeatedly printed in his Katolicki Tjednik, where he never tired of declaring that "it is unworthy of the disciples of Christ to think that the struggle against evil (sic) could be conducted in a noble manner and with gloves on." This in addition to writing poems to Pavelic, and inciting all Catholics to follow Pavelic's example and the example of the Ustashi.[5]

But if open refusal of conversion spelt death, acceptance of "the true faith," although very often an insurance of terrestrial life, was not always a guarantee of safety. The slightest reluctance on the part of the Orthodox individuals, any obvious indication that they were becoming Catholic as a means of saving themselves, very often aroused Catholic vengeance. Apart from that, there were times when the call to conversion became only an excuse for wholesale massacre.

Curate Ilija Tomas, from the village of Klepac, for instance, was responsible for the death of hundreds of Serbs in that district. In order more easily to capture frightened victims who were fleeing to the mountains, he promised that no harm would befall them if they would embrace the Catholic religion. When many, believing this, called on him, he turned them over to the Ustashi, who murdered them all. In the village of Stikade, in Lika, Catholic priest Morber, leader of the Ustashi, invited the Serbs to be converted to the Catholic religion. Because those who accepted his proposal to be converted showed some reluctance, the Ustashi surrounded and massacred them with rifles and hammers and threw their bodies into a ditch. When the bodies were dug up later it was established that many had been alive when buried.

Josip Orlic, priest in Sunja, an old sworn Ustashi, compelled the Serbs in his district to accept Catholicism by threatening them with concentration camps. A great majority of the Serbs there changed to Catholicism, in fear for their lives. But as many of those re-christened made it clear that they did so to save their lives, they were carried away to the Jasenovac concentration camp in May, 1942, where practically all of them were killed. Some priests and monks specialized in forced mass conversions. The Ustashi priest Dionizije Juric, the Franciscan and close friend to Pavelic whom we have already mentioned, was appointed to head this division, which devised a plan for the systematic conversion of those Serbs who had been spared from persecution and massacre.

The daily mass murders taking place before them became the most powerful weapon of mass persuasion. Many followed the "friendly advice" and were "converted." Conversions of individual and mass character became increasingly frequent. Most of these were duly announced in the Catholic Press. Katolicki List, organ of the Bishopric of Zagreb, controlled by Stepinac, in its issue No. 38 in 1941, for instance, reported that "a new parish of over 2,300 souls" had been created in the village of Budinci, as a result of the entire village having been re-christened to the Catholic Faith, and added that preparations for the re-christening had been made by a Franciscan from Nasice, Father Sidonije Solc. A similar mass conversion in the vicinity of Osijek, carried out by Father Peter Berkovic, was described in Ustaska Velika Zupa, No. 1372, of April 27, 1942:

His work covers the period from preparation of the members of the Eastern Orthodox Church for conversion to Catholicism until they were actually converted, and thus in the counties of Vocin, Cacinci, and Ceralije, he converted more than 6,000 persons.

An Ustashi administrator, Ante Djuric, priest of Divusa, forced all heads of families to assemble round their local teacher, bringing a 10 diners tax stamp, in order to write out petitions for conversion for themselves and their families. The alternative: forfeiture of their residences and posts. The curate of Ogulin, Canon Ivan Mikan, charged 180 diners for each forced conversion, so that in one Serb village along—Jasenak—he collected 80,000 diners.

A frank admission of how these mass conversions were made was given by Nova Hrvatska, an Ustashi paper, on February 25, 1942: "The re-Christening was carried out in a very solemn manner by the curate of Petrinja, Michael Razum. An Ustashi company was present at this solemn occasion."

The re-christenings, as they were euphemistically labeled, were frequently celebrated with, in addition to water, blood. Priest Ivan Raguz had no inhibitions about it. He repeatedly urged the killing of all Serbs, including children, so that "even the seed of these beasts is not left." His worthy colleague, the curate Bozidar Brale, from Sarajevo, took part in Serbian liquidation with gun in hand, loudly postulating the "liquidation of the Serbs without compromise." The Spiritual Board of the Archbishop of Sarajevo was eventually to see Brale. As a culprit before an ecclesiastical tribunal? Far from it. As that Catholic body's President.

With the Catholic Hierarchy as the brains of such a policy of terror, with the ruthless armed Catholic bands at their disposal, the expected occurred. Individuals, whole families, entire villages, and even small towns embraced Catholicism. Their official entry into the "true Church" usually took place during mass ceremonies performed by Ustashi priests, "watched" by armed units of Ustashi. Refusal, or even postponement, on the part of the prospective converts brought upon them immediate requisitioning of property, threats against themselves, their relatives, and their very lives.

Thousands embraced Catholicism in this manner. Following their "conversion," the new Catholics wound in a procession to the local Catholic Church, as a rule escorted by units of piously armed Ustashi, chanting about the happiness of having at last become the children of the true Church, and ending up with Te Deums and prayers for the Pope. As if this were not sufficient, the villages where Serbs had been re-christened had to send congratulatory telegrams to Stepinac. For the eager Archbishop had, as befitted a good shepherd, ordered that the news of any mass conversions performed in any parish throughout Croatia be sent directly to him. Telegrams bearing such happy tidings were printed in the Ustashi paper, Nova Hrvatska, as well as in Stepinac's own official Diocesan Journal, Katolicki List. In its issue of April 9, 1942, the former printed four such telegrams, all addressed to Stepinac. In these, the mass entries into the bosom of Mother Church were laconically and succinctly described. One, for example, read:

2,300 persons assembled in Slatinski Drenovac, from the villages of Drenovac, Pusina, Kraskovic, Prekorecan, Miljani and Gjursic, accepted today the protection of the Roman Catholic Church and send their profound greetings to their Head.

Thirty per cent of Orthodox Serbs in the New Croatia were converted to Catholicism within a remarkably short period. The use of fear of losing property, or even life, however, was still not sufficient for most members of the Catholic Hierarchy engaged on this type of proselytization, and whenever resistance was encountered, Catholic clergymen ordered and, in fact, themselves often carried out the execution of many Orthodox. When collective resistance was met, ruthless collective punishment was inflicted upon the reluctant Orthodox. More often than not that meant torture and even execution.

Instances of such priestly murderers are many. Suffice it to mention a few. For example, Father Dr. Dragutin Kamber, a sworn Ustashi, but also a Jesuit priest. Father Dragutin ordered the killing of about 300 Orthodox Serbs in Doboj, and the court martial of 250 others, most of whom were shot. Or Father Dr. Branimir Zupanic, who had more than 400 men, women, and children killed in one village alone, Ragolje, and who was a personal friend of Ante Pavelic. During one of his sermons in the church of Gorica, Father Srecko Peric, of the Gorica monastery near Livno, advocated mass murders with the following words: "Kill all Serbs. First of all, kill my sister, who is married to a Serb, and then all Serbs. When you finish this work, come here to the Church and I will confess you and free you from sin." This resulted in a massacre, on August 10, 1941, during which over 5,600 Orthodox Serbs in the district of Livno alone lost their lives.

The chief ecclesiastic murderer, however, was neither a mere Catholic clergyman nor a fanatical Jesuit. He was no less than a member of the Order of meek St. Francis: Nliroslav Filipovic, an Ustashi since long before the war, and a Franciscan monk. Father Filipovic killed a child with his own hands in the village of Drakulic, while addressing a battalion of Ustashi: "Ustashi," was his curt brotherly exhortation, "I re-Christen these degenerates in the name of God. You follow my example." One thousand five hundred Orthodox Serbs were then executed on one single day. Jasenovac, an Ustashi concentration camp which equalled Dachau in horror, not long afterwards received a new Commandant: Father Filipovic. In his new role, Filipovic, cooperating with Father Zvonko Brekalo, Zvonko Lipovac, and Father Culina, caused the deaths of 40,000 men, women, and children in the camp during the period of his administrations. [6]

The losses inflicted by these frenzied attempts of the Catholics to destroy the Orthodox Church were immense. The material damage amounted to 7 milliard pre-war gold diners. Out of twenty-one Orthodox bishops in Yugoslavia, one was taken to internment in Italy, two were forcibly removed from their sees and sent to Serbia, one was imprisoned with Patriarch Gavrilo, and then sent to Dachau concentration camp, two were beaten and sent to Serbia, where they died shortly afterwards, two died in internment camps, and five were murdered in cold blood. [7] About 400 Orthodox priests were sent to concentration camps, while about 700 (one-quarter of the total number of Orthodox priests) were killed. One-quarter of monasteries and churches were completely destroyed, about half of the total number were damaged, an unknown number were transformed into Catholic churches or Catholic halls. Out of 189 churches in the Gornjo Karlovachka diocese, for instance, 175 were burned and destroyed. [8]

The greatest losses, however, were inflicted among the humble members of the Orthodox Church. In Pavelic's New Ustashi State, in fact, between April, 1941, and the spring of 1945, thanks to Ustashi units, Ustashi police, and concentration camps, at least 850,000 members of the Orthodox Church and citizens of Yugoslavia, including numerous Croats (plus 30,000 Jews and 40,000 Gypsies), perished thus. [9] Hundreds of Catholic priests and Catholic friars contributed, either directly or indirectly, to this colossal massacre.

To say that these were the deeds of individuals suffering from religious mania, or that these same individuals had discarded the most elementary rules of humanity, acting on their own initiative after scoring the admonitions of their Church and rebelling against her authority, is untrue. The Ustashi massacres, all the atrocities committed by either Catholic officials, priests, or monks, fell within a coolly calculated scheme for the total elimination of the Orthodox masses, actively or passively resisting their absorption into the Catholic fold. Indeed, it was the premeditated policy of the Catholic Hierarchy, acting on behalf of its true inspirer, the Vatican.


1. See Memorandum on Crimes of Genocide Committed against the Serbian People by the Government of the Independent State of Croatia during World War 11, dated October, 1950, sent to the President of the 5th General Assembly of the United Nations by Adam Pribicevic, President of the Independent Democratic Party of Yugoslavia; Dr. Vladimir Belajcic, former Justice of the Supreme Court of Yugoslavia; and Dr. Branko Miljus, former Minister of Yugoslavia.[Back]

2. See also Martyrdom of the Serbs, p. 176.[Back]

3. For list of names of Catholic priests who personally committed such crimes, see Martyrdom of the Serbs (p. 176), prepared by the Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese, for the USA and Canada, Palandech's Press, Chicago, 1943. Archbishop Stepinac, had he been willing, could have punished them, with military sanctions, as their military vicar. It is sinisterly significant that the Vatican permitted Stepinac to become military vicar, in October, 1940, before Yugoslavia was invaded. See also Tablet, January 17, 1953.[Back]

4. Katolicki Tjednik, No. 35, August 31, 1941.[Back]

5. Hrvatski Narod, December 25, 1941; Novi List, November 10, 1942.[Back]

6. Filipovic was regarded as abnormal even by many of his Ustashi colleagues. All the cases just quoted are authenticated and can be found in the files of the Yugoslav State Commission for the Investigation of War Crimes.[Back]

7. Throughout Yugoslavia only six were left at their posts.[Back]

8. These losses include the whole of Yugoslavia. The largest proportion, however, were willfully caused by Catholics in Croatia (figures published in Glasnik, official paper of the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchy, 1951).[Back]

9. These are official figures, reputedly on the conservative side. The Serbian Orthodox Patriarchy estimated the killings at 1,200,000.[Back]

Return to Contents