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Tomislav Sunic and Nikola Stedul: MARSHAL TITO'S KILLING FIELDS (Croatian Victims of the Yugoslav Secret Police outside former Communist Yugoslavia: 1945-1990)

13.02.2002 | Source:



The ongoing legal proceedings in the Hague against Serb and Croat war crimes suspects, including the Serbian ex-president Slobodan Milosevic, must be put into wider perspective. The unfortunate and often irrational hatred between Serbs and Croats had for decades been stirred up and kept alive by the communist Yugoslav secret police. The longevity of the artificial, multiethnic Yugoslavia was not just in the interest of Yugoslav communists but also of Western states. The long-time Western darling, the late Yugoslav communist leader, Marshall Josip Broz Tito, had a far bigger share of ethnic cleansings and mass killings. Yet, for decades, his crimes were hidden and went unreported in the West.

The first part of the following essay represents a brief excursion into the Croat victimology. The second part covers the poor legality of the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

When talking or writing about state terror in former Communist Yugoslavia, one must inevitably mention those who were either assassinated or wounded outside the jurisdiction of that state. The assassination attempts were carried out by Yugoslav secret police (OZNA, UDBA) agents - although the decision "to make a kill" had to be first reached at the very top of the late Yugoslav Communist regime. During Communist ex-Yugoslavia, there was the whole spectrum of UDBA victims, particularly among former Croatian political emigres living under foreign Western jurisdictions. Of course, this sensitive theme can be addressed from a variety of different perspectives: historical, sociopolitical, psychological, ethical, and theological. Statistics or the "body count" of the UDBA terror is very important - but what appears to be even far more relevant are the persons who carried out those killings. Who gave the orders, and what were their motives? Such a wide-range analysis can, hopefully, be of some help, particularly in understanding today the poor legitimacy of the Tribunal in the Hague.

Moreover, such a broad-based approach is all the more important as the results of UDBA lawlessness went beyond its immediate victims. Each act of silencing a different, or dissident-minded opponent, or to physically eliminate somebody who refuses to pledge allegiance to a given state ideology, often exacerbates opposing views. Indeed, it can lead to a wider armed conflict, resulting in wars, mass killings, ethnic cleansings, etc. These end-results (which were recently confirmed by the violent break-up of ex-Yugoslavia and the subsequent Communist party -inspired aggression on Croatia, were also part and parcel of a larger socio-political package, leading to, but also deriving from, the spiral of mass psychosis, nationalist mythologies, general insecurity, the culture of resentment, and the resurgence of most primeval animal instincts amidst wide layers of population.

The Sense of Victimhood and the Meaning of Forgiveness

Regarding the scope of the Yugoslav secret police (UDBA) terror, one must not attribute them an excessive importance. In the last analysis, victims, following World War II in Yugoslavia, can be counted in hundreds of thousands, and victims in the recent war in the Balkans in several dozens of thousands. Therefore, attributing special significance to a relative small number, i.e. over a hundred victims of the UDBA terror in foreign countries, may sound biased - particularly when one compares this relatively low figure to the much higher figures mentioned above. Yet the difference in significance regarding the volume of the crime does not minimize the gravity of the crime; all victims are equally important. The only difference is how and in which historical circumstances these killings took place, and what is the causal relationship between the post- Word War II victims, UDBA victims, and Croat and Serb victims of the recent war. It is more or less taken for granted that mass killings occur in a war like scenario. Yet victims of the UDBA terror, which are discussed here, happened in peace time, in free and democratic Western countries, i.e., in societies in which everybody is entitled to his opinion and his pursuit of happiness. The criminal acts by the UDBA were committed abroad, and for them the Yugoslav Communist government (and their today's recycled followers both in Croatia and Serbia) bear direct responsibility. Moreover, those post-World War II crimes went beyond the legal framework of Communist ex-Yugoslavia.

The question must be raised as to why the Communist regime, even after the establishment of Communist Yugoslavia in 1945, continued to assassinate its political opponents, including those who resided in Western countries. One might believe that political opponents of Communist Yugoslavia who lived in the West did not pose a tangible threat to the ruling Yugoslav Communist League. This is all the more important considering the fact that Western countries, in which Croatian political emigres lived, or still live, were by no means sympathetic to the vision of establishing an independent Croatian state. Quite to the contrary; Western countries often did their utmost to preserve the "unity and integrity" of Communist Yugoslavia. But a threat to Communist Yugoslavia from Croatian emigre Western-based circles did exist - for a simple reason that the state of Yugoslavia and its Communist elite could not rely on the good will of the Croatian people. This weakness of Communist Yugoslavia did represent a problem to the Yugoslav authorities, because any state and any regime without legitimacy (regardless of its claim to legality), unless founded on the will of its citizens, does not have long-term survivability. The regime in place could be upheld only by sheer force. In an uncompromising effort to secure its survival, the Yugoslav Communist regime decided, very early on, to "neutralize" all separatist Croats, including those living in Western countries. This method of "neutralization" often took place in a beastly manner. The new Republic of Croatia, today, does not need to be kept alive by using force against its dissidents, because its support is solidly anchored amidst the majority of its citizens. It does not have to fear a handful of individuals, or a handful of small extremist parties. Far more dangerous for the survival of Croatia are the individuals, who in the name of some "ultra-Croatiandom," or some "mega-Croatian" statehood, continue to act in a radically opposite way to their much vaunted agendas. This danger is all the more great because it often operates under cover of fake Croat patriotism. Very early on, the ring leaders of the Communist machinery realized that their policy of "Yugoslavenisation" or "Titoisation" could not have positive effects among the Croatian people. Therefore, they viewed anybody who dared advocate the idea of the Croatian state independence, as a mortal enemy. On August 10, 1941, at the very beginning of the formation of Yugoslav Communist partisans units, late President Josip Broz Tito, stipulated that the "provocateurs, traitors must be immediately liquidated." Those who fell into this category were often advocates of Croatian state independence. Following these official Titoistic stipulations, only a few months later, the leader of Slovenian Communist Partisan units, Mr. Evard Kardelj (under his conspiratioral name "Bevac"), in a written report sent to Tito regarding the liquidation of opponents, carried out by his partisan units, noted: "Our machinery of execution is made up of 50 well trained men, armed with pistols and hand grenades. In view of the much increased terror undertaken by the Italian (Fascist) occupying forces, and local Slovenian "Bela Garda" collaborators, we had to increase the number of our activities. These men are capable of everything. Almost every day collaborators and traitors are eliminated along with members of the occupying (Fascist) units, etc. There is no police protection for those whom our VOS takes for a target..." Classical UDBA Terror

Here is a typical example of Communist terror. On the one hand, Partisan and Communist executions, during WWII in the Balkans were carried out in order to scare the local population; on the other, to incite the occupying Fascist and pro-fascist forces to carry out retribution killings, and create additional mass psychosis, along with the sense of insecurity, further prompting local population to join the Partisan movement directed by the Yugoslav Communist Party - and the Red International.

The task of carrying out this mission was handed over to the OZNA, which later, after Word War II, changed its name to the civilian police security apparatus, under the name of UDBA and the KOS. In fact, as the Communist Partisan movement, as a result of the Allied help, grew stronger, on May 13, 1944 the Yugoslav Partisans formally founded the "Section for the People's Protection" (i.e. OZNA). This organization, among the Croatian people, brings back bad memories, because it was through the OZNA that Communist leadership carried out mass or individual killings, which took place during Word War II and immediately after Word War II. Following the dissolution of the pro-fascist NDH ("Independent State of Croatia") in 1945, the OZNA received the order, immediately after its first round of killings in post-World War II war months, to continue eliminating well-known Croats, who had managed after Word War II to escape and hide in foreign countries.

The early OZNA chose as its first victim Dr. Ivan Protulipac, who was assassinated in Trieste, Italy, on January 31, 1946. Dr. Protulipac was a founder of "The Eagle and Crusading Youth" in the former monarchic Yugoslavia. He was also a successor to Dr. Ivan Merz, the much praised leader of the "Croatian Catholic Youth."

Two and a half years later, i.e., on August 22, 1948, the UDBA tried to kidnap in Salzburg, Austria, Dr. Mato Frkovic, who during Word War II, in a short lived NDH ( "Independent State of Croatia") held a high ranking place in the government. The same year, the OZNA (from then on "UDBA"), assassinated in Austria, Mr. Ilija Abramovic. Only a few months later, on March 16, 1949, the UDBA kidnapped in Rome, Italy, Mr. Drago Jilek, who had worked as the interim Head of the Intelligence Service of the NDH, during Word War II. After the former Chief of the Security of the NDH, Mr. Dido Kvaternik had been deposed from office, Jilek assumed control of the pro-fascist World War II, Croatian UNS ( Ustasha Security Service).


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