Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pacelli, Tisserant and Poland 1938

Much has been made of a document written by Cardinal Pacelli, in May 1938 to Cardinal Eugene Tisserant, head of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, ie, Churches that use one of the several Oriental rites and are in communion with Rome.  I have made mention of this before, but I think it timely to review what lies in the public domain.

What we have is a letter written by Pacelli to Tisserant in response to a news article that had been sent to Tisserant reporting on legislation before the Polish parliament that would outlaw traditional halachic - schechita - slaughter of animals. 

Firstly, let us place the text in its historical context.

1.  Pacelli, acting in accord with Pope Pius XI, had regularly protested anti-Jewish and antisemitic legislation through the networks of nuncios and other papal representatives.  The most well known are the dispatches Pacelli sent to the German nuncio, Archbishop Cesare Orsenigo ordering him to make formal protests to the German government over anti-Jewish persecution.  Further, Pacelli also ordered the nuncio to do whatever he could to help German Jews.  In reality, there was little more Pacelli could do; he relied on Orsenigo who demonstrated on more than a few occasions, a concerning lack of energy over Jewish matters.

2.  This points to a series of obvious, but often overlooked, realities of Vatican diplomacy. 

a)  The pope and Pacelli could, and did, protest, but usually to little effect.  Bound by the conventions of concordats with states such as Germany and Poland, which they observed to the letter, Vatican protests could only raise issues with the government.  And the historical record is replete with examples of governments ignoring the Vatican.  The irony in this case is that Poland's identity in the inter-war years was, in no small part, built on a publicly proclaimed Catholicism, albeit of a Polish rather than Roman slant. Neal Pease's book Rome's Most Faithful Daughter goes far to dispel many of the myths of Polish Catholicism.

b) The pope and Pacelli could, and did, stir the local bishops through the nuncio and direct communication, but that too was limited.  The Vatican rarely ordered bishops to act on local matters outside of internal Church affairs, such as liturgy or appointments, preferring to trust that bishops would "do the right thing".  Given the murky and long history of Judeaphobia, to expect Catholic bishops in central and eastern Europe to rally to the Jews was unlikely.  It had, as historians such as Hubert Wolf, Emma Fattorini, Susan Zuccotti and Michael Phayer have pointed out, taken Rome decades in the modern era to come to a point where a condemnation of antisemitism was even feasible or desirable.  Nazi persecution focused attention precisely because it was qualitatively different to previous manifestations.

c) Evidence from ADSS and a host of other sources, such as the Akten deutcher bischofe  uber die lage der kirche 1933-1945, demonstrate that among the bishops of Germany and the rest of Europe, there was a wide diversity of opinion and attitude.  The German bishops were often unable to agree on a united strategy to counter National Socialism, and during the war found themselves unable to agree on a plan of action to assist the Jews.  The bishops of Poland generally accepted the teaching and effects of centuries of supercessionism and the theology of contempt towards Jews and Judaism, ensuring Jewish concerns would always be second to Catholic Poles.  During the war this proved to be catastrophic; Jews would always be "lesser victims" to everyone else.

3.  Poland 1938.

In the years following the death of Marshall Jozef Pilsudski (1867-1935), the Polish government had gradually introduced more restrictive anti-Jewish laws, building on a widespread social acceptance and approval that had long been a part of nationalist Polish self-identity.    In June 1936, the prime minister, Felicjan Slawoj-Skladovski (1885-1962) declared his support for an economic war against the Jews.  What had been an unofficial government policy that enjoyed considerable support from the Catholic clergy, now became official policy. 

Removing Jews from Poland's economic life received vocal support from the Cardinal-Primate, August Hlond (1881-1948), archbishop of Poznan and Gniezno, who declared that Jews would always be a problem for Poland, always at odds with the Catholic Church and always at the beck and call of godless Bolshevism.  A Poland without Jews would be a good thing.

The Sejm had already passed laws restricting and banning schechita - kosher slaughter - in 1923 and 1936. By 1938 the Sejm was also listening to calls not only for economic segregation but for physical segregation in the markets, housing, public transport, schools, universities, courts, and ultimately, forced emigration from Poland.  Much of this enjoyed the public support of many Polish bishops.

When Pacelli wrote to Tisserant in May 1938, many of the Jews of Poland were facing economic ruin and poverty.  They were, to use the title of Celia Stopnika Heller's book, On the Edge of Destruction

4. What was known in Rome, May 1938.

Although the principal preoccupation in the Vatican in May 1938 was Hitler's visit to Rome, news from Poland flowed into the Holy See as it did from all the other papal representatives around the world.  Pacelli's response demonstrates that the matter was noted and the nuncio to Poland informed.  There was an attached report from Poland to the original letter, but it has not been reproduced on any of the sites I researched. I doubt the matter raised any "red flags" in Rome, indeed by comparison with other issues facing Polish Jews, kosher butcher restrictions were probably not considered of urgent importance.  Indeed, it is of greater concern that the inflammatory statements made by more than a few of the Polish bishops appear to have gone unchallenged by the Vatican.  I admit that the last sentence is not based on a comprehensive study of the matter, but I have not come across any disciplinary statement or request for caution from Rome.

The text:

From the Vatican 21 May 1938

Secretary of State of His Holiness
Number: 1892/38
To be cited in response.

My Most Obedient, Eminent and Reverend Lord,

With the venerable letter of 6 April [1938] which your Most Eminent Reverence was please to make known to me the article in the newspaper to the effect that the Government of Poland has planned to introduce a law which would prohibit the “slaughter by jugular”, imposed by Israelite religious law, and therefore constitute a real persecution of the Jews. Your letter insinuated, therefore, the convenience of a gesture of the Apostolic Nuncio to prevent this measure.

I did not fail to pass on this information to His Excellency, Archbishop Cortesi, and I am now happy to give your Eminence, in the attached copy of his Report Number 89 on 7 May [1938], which contains precise information on the issue.

I gladly take the opportunity to express to your Eminence, the assurances of my profound veneration, and humbly kissing your hands,

I am your Reverend Eminence’s most humble, true and devoted servant,

E. Card. Pacelli

His Reverend Eminence, the Lord Cardinal Eugene Tisserant,
Secretary of the Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Church.


In 2008 Andrea Tornielli wrote an article on the document.  It is interesting, but does not examine the historical context in sufficient detail.  Further, Tornielli uses the document as evidence that Pacelli was not antisemitic.  I disagree.  The document is evidence that Cardinal Pacelli responded to a request from Cardinal Tisserant to help the Jews of Poland and protest at a proposed unjust law - which would add to a series of unjust laws that actively discriminated against Polish Jews.  The question of whether Pacelli was antisemitic or not is not applicable here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

ADSS 8.431 Marcone to Maglione

In this report to Rome, Marcone writes with a bluntness unusual in diplomatic correspondent.  He has spoken with Eugene "Dido" Kvaternik who as head of police in Croatia from 1941-1943 before he had a serious rupture with Pavelic and fled to Slovakia.  The rupture seems to have been caused by the suicide of Kvaternik's Jewish mother, Olga Frank, which makes his antisemitism all the more horrific.

Kvaternik was responsible for enabling the persecution of Croatia's Jews and creating the environment for the reign of terror against them.  From Marcone's tone Kvaternik had no inhibition in telling the Visitor that "two million Jews have been killed" and the same fate seems to lie in store for the Jews of Croatia.  Reports such as this added to the gathering mountain of information Rome possessed by the late summer of 1942.  The murder of the Jews of Europe had passed into a new phenomena - from mass killing "in the East" to a systematic continent-wide extermination campaign.

After the war Kvaternik escaped to Argentina with support from Catholic circles.  He remained an unrepentant Ustasha officer until the end and worked with expatriate Croats against the communist regime of Marshal Tito.  Kvaternik died in a car crash in Argentina in 1962.

A biographical essay on Kvaternik was posted on the Axis History Forum in 2003.

ADSS 8.431

Reference: Report number 417/42 (AES 5766/42, original)

Location and date: Zagreb, 17.07.1942

Summary statement: Germans demand extradition of all Croatian Jews; request for intervention in their favour. Difficulties facing the departure of Jewish children for Turkey.

Language: Italian


I learned the following from the Chief of Police, Dr Eugene Kvaternik [1910-1962], to whom I had complained about the cruelty used against Jews of all ages and conditions.

The German government has demanded the extradition of all Jews residing in Croatia to Germany within six months, where, according to Kvaternik, two million Jews have been killed in recent times. It seems that the same fate awaits the Croatian Jews, especially the old and those unable to work.

Having received this news about the Jews, I am continually seeking to find ways of securing their salvation. The Chief Rabbi of Zagreb [Miroslav Freiberger 1904-1943] visits me often and tells me news of new misfortunes.

I commend the Chief of Police, who, at my suggestion, has delayed as much as possible, the execution of this order. Indeed, he would be pleased if the Holy See could intervene for the withdrawal of the order, (1) or at least to suggest that all Croatian Jews be concentrated on an island or in a zone of Croatia where they could live in peace.

In the meantime, I have learned from the Chief Rabbi that Turkey is willing to accept fifty Croatian Jewish children, but not by way of Serbia, but through Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

While Bulgaria has granted transit permission, Hungary and Romania are opposed.

The Chief Rabbi implores the Holy See to intervene with these two countries in order to obtain the right of passage.

Note of Domenico Tardini 11.08.1942

After audience with Cardinal Maglione.

1. Take the step specified in paragraph 1 in the name of the Holy See. (2)

2. Inform the nuncios in Budapest and Bucharest (we will do this ourselves). (3)


(1) In the margin Tardini wrote: see note at the end of the report.
(2) Cf ADSS 8.502
(3) We wrote to the two nuncios on 14.08.1942 (AES 5767/42) and informed the Visitor [Marcone] in Zagreb on the same day (AES 5766/42): “ … I would ask your paternity to propose such a solution on behalf of the Holy See and that it can be implemented …” The nuncio in Bucharest [Andrea Cassulo] wrote on 05.09.1942 to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: “… because the Turkish government would be willing to receive them [the children], the Holy See would be happy and grateful if the Romanian authorities would grant the necessary permissions”. (Number 9197/42 Archives of the Romanian Nunciature)

Eugen Kvaternik (left)

ADSS 8.430 Giuseppe Marcone to Maglione: Croatian Jews

The first series of reports from Abbot Giuseppe Marcone OSB, Apostolic Visitor to Croatia appear in ADSS from July 1942, nearly a year after his arrival in Zagreb the previous August (ADSS 5.36).  There is a clear pattern that emerges in the documents showing Marcone's work in attempting to help the Jews of Croatia.  Without further material it is hard to speak of Marcone's work as overly energetic, even when the historical contexts of Ante Pavelic's regime are taken into consideration.  Marcone does not appear to have been fooled by the murderous nature of the Ustasha, but he does appear to have maintained a position of strict neutrality.

Requests to do what he could to help Croatian Jews were forwarded to the Visitor by Cardinal Maglione (ADSS 8.238, 289, 502) and Marcone replied with reports indicating what he had done to help (ADSS 8.347, 537, 557).  Domenico Tardini noted the concerns of Niko Mirosevic-Sorgo (1884-1966), the Yugoslav ambassador to the Holy See, about Croatian Jews in Italian occupied Dalmatia threatened with possible deportation by Croatian authorities.  "Of interest to Marcone" appears at the end of the ambassador's letter. (ADSS 8.450)

There was difficulty obtaining reliable information about what was happening to Croatia's Jews in the summer of 1942, which is hard to credit given the amount of information travelling between Vatican diplomats that spoke of unprecedented murder "in the East".  As we see below and in the following post, Marcone approached two of the architects of the murder of the Jews of Croatia - Andrija Artukovic and Eugene Kvaternik - asking for their advice and  help.  In an almost surreal moment, Marcone writes that his secretary, Fr Giuseppe Masucci OSB, wrote a letter of protest to the Croatian government at the suggestion of Artukovic, drafter of the anti-Jewish laws and founder of the Croatian concentration camps! (ADSS 8.430; see below)

Marcone did work with the Chief Rabbi of Zagreb, Miroslav Freiberger (1904-1943) before he was transported to and murdered in Auschwitz.  One of the plans was to try and send Jewish children out of Croatia to Turkey (ADSS 8.514) and Italy (ADSS 8.566).  Nothing appears to come of the plan.  Freiberger wrote in gratitude for the work that Marcone was doing, which indicates the Visitor was seriously trying to help. (ADSS 8.495).ADSS 8.430

Reference: Report number 417/42 (AES 5766/42, original)

Location and date: Zagreb, 17.07.1942

Summary statement: Difficulty in obtaining information about Croatian Jews.

Language: Italian

In response to the letter number 48473 of 18.04.1942 (1) I have the honour to report as follows.
In recent months requests for information about the Jews made to the Croatian authorities have met an inexplicable silence. At the suggestion of Dr [Andrija] Artukovic, [1899-1988] Minister of the Interior [04.1941-10.1942], my secretary [Giuseppe Masucci] made a protest in my absence, after which a response was made …

(1) Not published.
(2) Information omitted.

NYT Obituary of Andrija Artukovic.

Andrija Artukovic, 88, Nazi Ally Deported to Yugoslavia, Is Dead


Published: January 19, 1988

Andrija Artukovic, a former leader of the Nazi puppet state of Croatia who was extradited from the United States to Yugoslavia, died Saturday in a prison hospital in Zagreb, where he had been condemned to death for mass murder, the Yugoslav press agency announced yesterday. He was 88 years old and had won a stay of execution on the ground of poor health.

''Convicted war criminal Andrija Artukovic died of illness,'' the press agency, Tanyug, said. It did not specify the ailment but the court had previously found him to be suffering from sclerosis, heart ailments and anemia.

Mr. Artukovic's son, Radoslav, a stockbroker in Los Angeles, said yesterday that when he last saw his father in prison in December he was down to 95 pounds and was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. He said his father ''was only guilty of being on the wrong side of World War II.''

Mr. Artukovic, a longtime resident of Seal Beach, Calif., south of Los Angeles, was the highest-ranking fascist official known to have found refuge in the United States after the war. He was the Interior Minister and then Justice and Religion Minister in the government of the Croatian fascist dictator Ante Pavelic. The postwar Yugoslav Government charged Mr. Artukovic with ordering the machine-gunning of hundreds of civilians and with responsibility for the killing of more than 700,000 other Serbs, Jews, gypsies and Croats.

Charged With Killings

As the chief justice official in the German-created puppet state of Croatia, Mr. Artukovic was accused of drafting racial laws modeled after the Nazi statutes and setting up a network of concentration camps. He was directly charged with the reprisal slayings of civilians in the village of Vrgin Most.

After his long-disputed extradition to Yugoslavia in February 1986, he was tried for war crimes and convicted after a one-month trial during which he maintained his innocence. He said he never knew of any killings and had never been to Vrgin Most. The Government postponed execution of the death sentence last April.

Mr. Artukovic's 35-year effort to stave off Yugoslav demands for his return spun an extraordinary legal chronicle that illustrated both the exhaustiveness of American judicial review and the politicization of American courts, in the opinion of some experts.

After the war, according to a Justice Department investigation, Mr. Artukovic escaped to the British zone of Austria where he was questioned and inexplicably released. He fled next to Switzerland, where he adopted the alias Alois Anich, and then to Ireland.

In 1948, with his wife and three children, he traveled to California on a 90-day tourist visa that was to sustain his residency in America for the next 38 years. Identity Is Learned

As early as 1949, the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Los Angeles learned his true identity but took no action against him.

By 1951 the Yugoslavs, who had been hunting him since 1946, learned he was in California and disclosed the story to the newspapers. Mr. Artukovic was then arrested. But Croatian emigre groups and influential clerics petitioned for his release and he was let out of jail pending an extradition hearing.

An aide to Deputy Attorney General Peyton Ford instructed Immigration that Mr. Artukovic ''should not be sent to apparently certain death at the hands of the Yugoslav Communists.'' In fact, he added, ''if his only crime was against Communists, I think he should be given asylum in the U.S.''

Mr. Artukovic was ordered deported in 1952 and the Board of Immigration Appeals upheld the ruling. But other court decisions threw the question into doubt and the case seesawed back and forth until 1957 when the Supreme Court sent the case back for an Immigration rehearing. A commissioner then ruled that the Yugoslav affidavits charging Mr. Artukovic with murder were unreliable and alleged, at most, political crimes. The Case Is Revived

Yugoslavia's effort to try Mr. Artukovic languished for nearly two more decades until the Immigration Service revived the case under pressure in the late 1970's. The Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations finally won the extradition order two years ago.

Mr. Artukovic was born Nov. 29, 1899, in Croatia, then part of Austria-Hungary, studied law and grew active in the Croatian separatist movement. In 1934 he was charged with others in the assassination of King Alexander of Yugoslavia in Marseilles but he was aquitted. Afterward he fled Yugoslavia, working with the Nazis in Germany, Hungary and Austria until Hitler's formation of Croatia in 1941.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his widow, Anamarie, and four daughters, Visnja, Zorica, Ruzica and Nada, who live in California and Arizona.

The Yugoslav Government said Mr. Artukovic's remains would be disposed of in accordance with the death penalty, apparently meaning the body would be cremated and the ashes scattered to avoid creating a memorial.  

Andrija Artukovic seated far left next to
Abbot Marcone and Archbishop Stepinac.

1986 Andrija Artukovic on trial for war crimes in Zagreb.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Vatican and the Ustasha

After posting the comments about the scandalous news of public memorials for the former leader and war criminal of war-time Croatia, Ante Pavelic, I began exploring the relationship between the Vatican and the Ustasha state in order to contextualise the documentation found in ADSS.  It has been a depressing exercise.  Unlike any other part of Europe during the war, the Catholic Church's relationship with the Ustasha state is overwhelmingly negative from the perspective of the Holocaust and the parallel genocides waged against Orthodox Christian Serbs.  Croatia holds the infamous distinction for carrying out a planned and state-sponsored genocide against Christians because they were not Roman Catholic.  I know of no other similar program carried out during the War. 

The Ustasha war against the Serbs was as much religious as racial.  The language used and the justifications fabricated were cloaked in "catholic" religious terminology.  The diplomatically neutral role of Apostolic Visitor, Giuseppe Marcone, precluded him from making formal protest, but did not prevent him from reporting what he heard and saw to the pope, Cardinal Maglione and others in the Secretariat of State.  It is impossible to suggest that Rome knew nothing, quite simply because they did know and admitted as much.

ADSS records some of the reports sent by Marcone indicating that the Croatian bishops were doing something to try and protect the Jews, but with next to no success.  There is evidence that attempts were made to rescue Jewish children and larger efforts to move as many Jews as possible into the Italian zones in nearby Slovenia and Dalmatia.

I will post some of these documents along with comments in the near future as well as continuing the account from Slovakia.  Given that both Slovakia and Croatia were "Catholic" states the history of the Holocaust in each place does provide a way of attempting to understand the action and reaction of the Vatican to the unfolding events.

For an introduction and overview to the Holocaust in Croatia see the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum pages on Yugoslavia.

On Croatia's relationship with the Catholic Church there is much material.  Michael Phayer's The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930-1965, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2000 and Pius XII, the Holocaust, and the Cold War, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2007 are, I believe, the best place to start.

If the reader can chart their way carefully through Carl Savich's sometimes contentious interpretation of history, The Vatican Role in the Ustasha Genocide in the Independent State of Croatia (2011) does have some interesting points.  I disagree not only on his reliance on John Cornwall's Hitler's Pope, but the lack of balance in parts.  It is historical fact that the Vatican did attempt to do something to help the Jews of Croatia-Serbia.  It is also historical fact that Archbishop Stepinac of Zagreb did speak against the murderous policies of Pavelic's regime.  These need to be acknowledged.  It is also dangerous putting too much responsibility on the shoulders of Abbot Marcone.  Marcone did let Rome know what was going on. Moral issues aside, the Vatican needed "its man on the ground" in order to have a conduit into and out of Croatia. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Pavelic, Croatia and the Vatican

Over the last few months I have been reading my way through Volume 8 of ADSS.  It is a selection of documents that deal with the Vatican's attempt to help the victims of the war, especially the Jews.  I have posted a series of documents on the attempts made to stop the deportations from Slovakia.  In these texts we have seen how the Vatican used both its diplomatic efforts alongside the work of its representatives "in the field" combined with local and international influences. 

Between March and October 1942 about 58,000 Slovakian Jews were deported, most were sent to Auschwitz where they were murdered.  Deportations did not resume until September 1944 when the Red Army was approaching the eastern borders.

Slovakia's neighbour, the German-puppet state of Croatia, had many similarities.  Both were ruled by men who claimed legitimacy in part through Catholicism, both sought papal approval for their regimes, both employed German-style antisemitism as government policy, both used police and militia as enforcers of anti-Jewish laws, both exercised state-sanctioned persecution, imprisonment, exclusion, expropriation and extermination of Jews, and both relied in varying measures on the tacit approval of at least some of the Catholic clergy.

Croatia was different in a number of respects - all of them marking the Ustasha regime of Ante Pavelic as one of the most bloody and sadistic episodes not only of World War Two and the Holocaust, but of modern European history.  Not even the Balkan "ethnic cleansing" of the 1990s came close to the horrors of the Ustasha.  One indicator was the revulsion expressed by the different members of the German and Italian military, as well as the Gestapo, to the means by which the Ustasha murdered their victims.  The history of the mass murder of Jews, Orthodox Christian Serbs, and largely Catholic and Orthodox Roma by the Ustasha and their collaborators is by any standards sickening reading.

The Vatican's diplomatic involvement with the Pavelic regime began with the request from Pavelic for a papal representative in Zagreb.  Pavelic visited Rome in May 1941 in part to seek Pius XII's blessing for the new Croatian state as well as score the propaganda coup of having papal recognition done on the world stage.  Pavelic was to be disappointed on both counts. 

Pius has been widely criticised for receiving the dictator; but what choice did he have?  Having proclaimed neutrality at the outbreak of the war, the pope could not very well refuse to receive a head of state, even a Nazi puppet such as Pavelic who made so much of his Catholicism.  Nonetheless, the Vatican did move to ensure that the visit was as low key as possible. 

ADSS provides us with a timeline of how the Holy See saw the Pavelic visit and what was possible, what was probable, and what would certainly not happen.

The references come from Volumes 4: June 1940-June 1941 and 5: July 1941- October 1942.

4.348  16.05.1941  Note of Giovanni Battista Montini, Secretariat of State: Pavelic had requested an audience with the pope.  Pius will grant a private audience. It was standard Vatican diplomatic practice not to grant formal diplomatic recognition to a state created during wartime or to recognise altered borders of a state made during war.  While Pavelic was, as far as the Croatian and German governments concerned, the head of state, the Vatican still recognised the Yugoslavian government in exile in London as the legitimate government and accorded Sorgo Mirosevic (1884-1966) full diplomatic status as its ambassador.  Therefore there would be no discussion of "recognition" of the new Croatian state.

4.351  17.05.1941 Note of Domenico Tardini, Secretariat of State: Making reference to the previous note, Tardini writes that the situation is "delicate".  The question was how to grant the audience - it would be diplomatically foolish to deny one since Pavelic made much of his Catholicism - without it becoming a political spectacle.

4.352  17.05.1941 Note of Tardini:  The pope will receive Pavelic alone in a private meeting.  The diplomatic language was "without delegation".  Pavelic could arrive at the Vatican in whatever way he chose, but once inside, he was going to be treated as a private person, a Catholic meeting with the pope.  There would be no formal agenda, no photos, no exchange of gifts and no reception with honour guards, papal nobility etc.  It would be as plain as possible.

4.356  18.05.1941 Note of Montini:  Pavelic and his entourage were received by the pope in a general audience - ie, as a group of Catholics who have come to Rome to see the pope.

4.357  18.05.1941 Note of Montini: The rector of St Jerome [the Croatian National College in Rome] Monsignor Magjerec will fly the Croatian flag during Pavelic's visit.

4.358  18.05.1941 Note of Montini: Pavelic's audience with the pope.  Pius XII received Pavelic as a "son of the Church".  Any recognition of the new state must wait until the end of the war.

19/20.05.1941 L'Osservatore Romano published a full account of the Pavelic visit.

4.361  18.05.1941 Cardinal Luigi Maglione, Secretary of State to all Nuncios and Apostolic Delegates: Circular emphasising the apolitical nature of Pavelic's visit to the pope. The fact that this was sent to all the papal representatives is very significant.  Rome wanted no misunderstanding about the visit - it was private and was in no way an approval of either Pavelic's regime or the new state.  Diplomatically, this was a very begrudging acceptance of something considered very unpleasant and unwanted.  I have no doubt Pavelic would have been made aware of the circular.

4.364  19.05.1941 Maglione to all Nuncios and Apostolic Delegates: More information on the audience granted to Pavelic.  Pavelic and his entourage were received by the pope.  Pius and Pavelic then went into another room for a private conversation.  At the end of this the pope returned to greet the delegation.  The customary courtesy call to the Secretary of State did not happen.  This reinforces what was mentioned above and also points to the high degree of sensitivity the Vatican knew surrounded the visit.  Pius knew the visit would generate hostility from many quarters.  This is possibly the first recorded "public relations management" exercise by the Vatican.  Misinformation was not slow to appear.  See 4.373, 379,407

4.369  21.05.1941 Note of Montini: Sorgo Mirosevic, the Yugoslav minister, requested L’Osservatore Romano publish the precise details of the audience granted to Pavelic.  Reports from French Radio suggest the Pope gave official recognition to the new state and spoke of a concordat.

4.385  02.06.1941 Note of Tardini:  Sorgo Mirosevic had made a protest at news of a papal representative being appointed for Croatia.  The protest was rejected.

4.386  02.06.1941 Sorgo Mirosevic to Secretariat of State:  Official protest at the news that the Vatican will appoint a papal representative to Croatia. While Mirosevic's protest is understandable, the Vatican's position can not be ignored.  There was no advantage for the pope is he refused the opportunity of having a representative in Croatia.  It was a case of realpolitik.  A diplomat of Mirosevic's experience would certainly understood this.  The protest was a diplomatic formality.

4.392  07.06.1941 Note of Tardini:  The pope has promised the Archbishop of Zagreb, Alojzije Stepinac, that he will appoint a papal representative to Croatia.  I have written about this in an earlier post.

4.400  13.06.1941 Note of Tardini:  Pavelic has expressed dissatisfaction that Croatia is to receive a nunciature while Croatia is to be given an Apostolic Visitor who is only "an observer".  This was not accurate.  Giuseppe Burzio, the papal representative in Slovakia, held the rank of charge d'affaires, which was less than ambassadorial rank.  The nunciature was not restored until after the war.

4.404  14.06.1941 Secretariat of State to Sorgo Mirosevic:  The Vatican's formal response to Mirosevic's protest of 02.06.1941.

ADSS 5.17  22.07.1941 Note of Tardini:  (See to 5 and 9).  The papal representative to Croatia will not have the title of Apostolic Visitor because of papal diplomatic policy regarding states created during war. Evidently there was a change of mind as the title was retained.

5.21  25.07.1941 Maglione to Stepinac:  Abbot Giuseppe Marcone has been appointed as the papal envoy to Croatia.

Marcone's despatches from Croatia mirrored much of what Giuseppe Burzio was reporting from Slovakia, namely a regime with a murderous policy towards Jews and others deemed unworthy of participation in the building of the new Croatia.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

On the Armenian Genocide and speaking the truth.

Bernard-Henry Levy's reasoned article on the recent passing by the French National Assembly of a law penalising denial of the Armenian genocide by the government of Turkey and its agencies from the 1890s through to the early 1920s is a timely reminder of the place of law in defending history.  Denialists in all their forms seek to create a new story using parts of an authentic narrative blended with elements from their own world-views.  In order to legitimate their version of history they must de-legitimise the truth as told by others. 

In short, denialists are liars. 

One of the roles of law is to protect truth - this is why we have courts where opposing sides can tell their stories and where a judgement can be made as to the truthfulness of one over the other.  Evidence, fact, reason and logic all play their part.  Ultimately, what destroys the denialist is their own story.  Under scrutiny, their "story" is exposed as a fabrication of half-truths disguised as facts, as a collection of convenient facts that just as conveniently leave out inconvenient facts. 

We witnessed this in the Deborah Lipstadt case against David Irving, who was named by the presiding judge as an antisemite and a racist.

Levy's article also challenges those who seek to revise history from noble aims without allowing this historical processes to complete their tasks.  I have found this in my own work on Pius XII.  The slow process of examining the data on and about Pius is often hampered by well meaning but misguided and misinformed people who believe they are doing a service by proclaiming to the world the Pius XII is a saint, who saved more Jews than anyone else, who deserves to be named as one of the Righteous by Yad Vashem etc.  Those who disagree are labelled all sorts of things, chief among them being "liberal Catholics who have an agenda against John Paul II and Benedict XVI"!

Levy's article speaks with reason and much common sense.  The comments that follow are interesting for the truth in the adage, "There are none so blind as those who will not see".

Bernard Henry Levy

On the Armenian Genocide:
The Response of a Handful of Historians

Are these people really incapable of comprehending? Or are they just pretending not to understand?

The law whose purpose is to penalize negationist revisionism, voted before Christmas by the French parliament, does not propose to write history in the place of historians. And this for the simple reason that this history has been told and written, well written, for a long time. This we have always known: that, beginning in 1915, the Armenians were the victims of a methodic attempt at annihilation. A wealth of literature has been devoted to the subject, based in particular upon the confessions offered by the Turkish criminals themselves, starting with Hoca Ilyas Sami, almost immediately after the fact. From Yehuda Bauer to Raul Hilberg, from researchers at Yad Vashem to Yves Ternon

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Mourning Pavelic: Shame in Croatia

I have been following the controversy over memorial Masses for Ante Pavelic the now-long dead leader of Fascist Ustasha Croatia.  Efraim Zuroff is right in expressing his surprise at the lack of reaction to a very provocative act. 

"Controversy" is hardly the right word, since outside of a few media articles scattered here and there, the memorials have generated no reaction outside of The Jerusalem Post, an article in the English language Croatian Times, some of the more fringe hate groups and the academic server, Holocaust H-Net.  Perhaps things will develop over the next few days - I hope so.

Pavelic was a mass murderer of Jews, Roma and Serbs.  He sent his thugs into Serbia to murder Christians as much as Jews.  The Ustasha were so brutal and bloody in their killing frenzies that even the SS counselled moderation.  The Catholic Church was, to its shame, complicit in more than some of the killing, but that may be discussed here at a later time.  What is certain is that the pope, Pius XII knew something of the involvement of Catholic clergy in the murder rampages.

Interestingly, the article in the Croatian Times is a very abbreviated version of the original article and contains a defense from Zvonko Franc of the masses.  It would appear that Franc has little understanding of the canon law demand that the Mass never be used as a means of propaganda or that any memorial service could be seen as a source of scandal for "the Faithful".

The priest mentioned, Vjekoslav Lasic, is a Dominican friar of the Croatian province who has a reputation for supporting the memory of the Pavelic state.  He has travelled throughout Croatian communities abroad, including Australia, giving succour to Croats who yearn for "the good old days", that is, before Tito and Communism.  Lasic is currently listed as a "reserve councillor" for the Dominican province, which suggests that he is regarded as being in good standing with the Order.  Ironically, the motto of the Order of Friars Preacher, is "Veritas" - truth.

Nazi memorial in Croatia a disgrace to Europe

By Efraim Zuroff


A service for Hitler is unthinkable. So why is the world quiet in response to a service for Ante Paveli?

Imagine for a minute that memorial masses were held in two major cities in Germany on the anniversary of the death of Adolf Hitler. Needless to say, such a ceremony would arouse fury, indignation, and widespread protests not only in Germany, but throughout the entire world. Last week, the local equivalent of such an event took place in Croatia, but instead of anger and demonstrations, not a single word of protest was heard from anywhere in the country.

I am referring to the December 28 memorial masses conducted in Zagreb and Split (and perhaps elsewhere as well) to mark the 51st anniversary of the death of Ante Paveli, the head of state of the infamous Independent State of Croatia, created by the Nazis and their Italian allies in 1941.

Following its establishment, rule was turned over to the local fascist movement, the Ustasha, headed by its Poglavnik (leader) Ante Paveli.

During the entire course of its brief existence (1941- 1945), the Ustasha sought to rid the country (which consisted of the area of today’s Croatia plus most of Bosnia-Herzegovina) of all its minorities, as well as their local political opponents. In order to do so, they established a network of concentration camps all over the country, the largest and most notorious of which was Jasenovac, located on the banks of the Sava River, southeast of Zagreb. There, many tens of thousands of innocent civilians were murdered in a variety of brutal ways, which earned the camp the nickname of the “Auschwitz of the Balkans.”

To this day, there continue to be disputes regarding the total number of civilians murdered by the Ustasha, but the number is certainly no fewer than several hundred thousand, primarily Serbs, along with Jews, Roma and anti-fascist Croats. And while all those who participated in these atrocities bear criminal responsibility, the individual with the greatest culpability was undoubtedly Ante Pavelic, who headed the most lethal regime in Axis-dominated Europe.

THE MEMORIAL masses to honor Pavelic, who died in Spain in 1959 from wounds suffered in an assassination attempt two years earlier, mark a renewal of a tradition which began in the 1990s following the reestablishment of Croatian independence. In the wake of the conviction in
Zagreb of Jasenovac commandant Dinko Sakic and in response to protests by the Wiesenthal Center, the mass was stopped and the priest responsible,Vjekoslav Lasic, left Croatia.

Unfortunately, however, Lasic returned to Zagreb a few years ago and renewed his neo-fascist activity with impunity. At the funeral of Sakic, who insisted on being buried in his Ustasha uniform although in prison for his World War II crimes, it was Lasic who administered final rites.
According to the Dominican priest, although Dinko Sakic did not observe all the Ten Commandments (Thou shalt not murder?), he was a model for all Croatians, and every Croat should be proud of his name.

The question now is, how does such an event to honor the memory of one of the biggest mass murderers of World War II pass with nary a word of protest or condemnation? The obvious address for such indignation would be in Croatia itself, where many people fought with Tito’s partisans against the Ustasha, and a significant sector of the population have a strong anti-fascist tradition. But the same question applies outside the country as well.

Croatia is well on its way to membership in the European Union (slated for 2013), a membership which is ostensibly contingent on the acceptance of EU values and norms. Is a memorial mass for one of Europe’s worst war criminals compatible with EU membership?

The sad truth is that in this respect, the European Union has failed miserably in dealing with the resurgence of neo-fascism and the promotion of Holocaust distortion in its post-Communist members. Once admitted to the EU (and NATO), countries like Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Hungary and Romania have begun to take active steps to rewrite their World War II histories, minimizing or attempting to hide the highly-significant role played by their nationals in Holocaust crimes, with barely a word of protest or condemnation from Brussels.

Instead of actively combating the Prague Declaration of June 3, 2008, which promotes the canard of historical equivalency between Nazi and Communist crimes and undermines the justified status of the Holocaust as a unique case of genocide, the EU has failed to adequately respond to this dangerous challenge to the accepted Western narrative of World War II and

its tragic consequences.

I wish I could conclude with the good news that Israel and the Jewish world have responded appropriately, but unfortunately that is not the case. These developments have been purposely ignored by the Israeli government, which under Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman refuses to

respond to the assault on our past in those countries which have evinced no particular interest in championing the Palestinian cause.

Last week’s masses in honor of Ante Pavelic are a mockery of Christian values and an insult to all the victims of the Ustasha, their relatives, friends, and people of morality and conscience the world over. The time has come for effective protests from within Croatia, as well as from the European Union, the United States and Canada, Israel and the Jewish world.

That is the minimum that we owe the victims of that notorious mass murderer.

The writer is the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and director of its Israel Office. His most recent book is, Operation Last Chance; One Man’s Quest to Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice,  (Palgrave/Macmillan).

Dinko Sakic in Ustasha uniform, with wife, concentration camp guard, Nada Lubaric, 1943

Vjekoslav Lasic OP presides at the burial of Sakic in July 2008