FORGOTTEN 1943 GENOCIDE BY NAZI CHETNIK FASCISTS
FORGOTTEN GENOCIDE OF BOSNIAK MUSLIMS AROUND SREBRENICA REGION IN 1943; SERBIAN CHETNIK COLLABORATION WITH NAZI FASCISTS 1941-45 & SERBIAN GENOCIDE AGAINST JEWS AND ROMA
Editor’s note: This is our official response to the Wikipedia’s Draza Mihailovich article, which has been hijacked by WikiProject of Serbia’s Point of View with an attempt to ‘rehabilitate’ Nazi fascist who committed genocide.
+++ In just a few days of February 1943, the Serbian Chetniks under the leadership of Draza Mihailovich committed genocide of close to 20,000 Bosniak Muslims in the Podrinje area (around Srebrenica region) – mostly women, children and elderly. Serbian Chetniks themselves admitted killing over 9,000 people in this genocidal campaign alone.
+++ Serbs portray themselves as the major Balkan victims of the Second World War, but conceal the Chetnik collaboration with Nazi fascists, including systematic genocide that they had committed against several peoples, including the Bosniaks and Jews. Although Serbian historians contend that the persecution of the Jews of Serbia was entirely the responsibility of Germans and began only with the German occupation, this is self- serving fiction. Fully six months before the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia, Serbia had issued legislation restricting Jewish participation in the economy and university enrolment. 94 percent of Serbia’s 16,000 Jews were exterminated, with the considerable cooperation of the Serbian government, the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Serbian State Guard, the Serbian police and the Serbian public. The largest proportion of anti-fascist Bosnian partisans were Bosniaks Muslims, who were being slaughtered by all sides (Ustashas, Chetniks and Nazis). Attempts to form a pro-Axis Bosniak division failed when the Bosniak Muslim conscripts revolted against the Germans at a training base south of Le Puy, France in September 1943.
+++ While it is true that during the War, both the Partisans and pro-German Serbian-Nazi Chetniks aided Allied pilots in escaping, they did so because they were paid in gold for each one. However, only NAZI collaborator and fascist Draza Mihailovic received Medal, due to intensive Serbian lobbying and propaganda in the U.S.The full article starts below:
PHOTO: Serbian Chetnik Commander Pavle Djurisic reporting to the Chetnik General Draza Mihailovich on the extermination of over 9,200 Bosniak Muslims (including women and children) on February 13, 1943. May their souls rest in peace.
The Chetnik apologists like to argue that Draza Mihailovic didn’t know anything about genocidal campaigns his forces were committing against the Bosniak Muslim population of Bosnia-Herzegovina. A closer look at the above document reveals that Draza Mihailovic was well aware of genocide his forces were committing in 1943.
In the above document, Serbian Chetnik Commander Pavle Djurisic reported directly to the Chetnik General Draza Mihailovic about the “successes” of Chetnik operations in the extermination campaigns against the Bosniak Muslim population in the area of Pljevlje, Cajnice, and Foca region. This is the region of Podrinje where Srebrenica is located.
In his briefing to the Serb General Draza Mihailovich, the Chetnik Commander Pavle Djurisic writes, (note: this is a translation of key points from Serbian cyrillic), quote:
All Moslem villages in three mentioned locations [municipalities of Pljevlje, Cajnice, and Foca] were burned down, and not even one home remained intact…. During military operations, we engaged in total destruction of Moslem population without regard to their sex or age. Our victims include 22 dead, of which 2 by accident, and 32 wounded. We killed about 1,200 Muslim soldiers and about 8,000 of their women, elderly and children.
Therefore, it is perfectly clear that Draza Mihajlovich knew what was going on, but he did nothing to stop the genocide of Bosniak Muslim civilians. He was complicit in Genocide against the Bosniak Muslim population of Podrinje in 1943. While the Serbian Chetniks admited killing 9,200 people in this genocide, the documented killings show close to 20,000 Bosniaks massacred, 98% of them being civilian men, women, children, and elderly. (See: “Srpski zlocini nad Bosnjacima Muslimanima 1941. – 1945.” by Semso Tucakovic).
Attempts to Deny 1943 Genocide
This genocide of Bosniak Muslim population in Podrinje occured in February of 1943. Since then, the leftist apologist genocide deniers have been actively denying any wrong-doings of Serbian Chetnik forces who collaborated with Nazi fascists in World War II. The most vocal Draza Mihajlovic’s apologist and opinionist (he doesn’t deserve to be called historian) – Lucien Karchmar – even came up with a list of philosophical reasons attacking the evidence against Chetnik crimes. In his book “Draza Mihailovic and the Rise of the Chetnik Movement, 1941–1942“, Lucien Karchmar devotes his study in apologizing for Draza Mihailovich’s crimes and dismissing each piece of historical evidence presented as a fraud or forgery. That’s exactly how Chetnik-apologists write history to justify, downplay or deny crimes of Chetniks against the Bosniak Muslim population of Bosnia-Herzegovina; not to mention Chetnik collaboration with Nazi fascists.
Instead of reading Lucien Karchmar’s make-belief stories about Chetnik innocence, one might read the book written by a respected Serbian historian Nikola P. Ilic who did a great job documenting collaboration of Chetniks with Fascists. The book is titled (in Serbian) “Kolaboracija Cetnika sa Okupatorima i Kvislinzima u Srbiji.“
PHOTO: Chetnik Draza Mihailovich’s commanders with the German nazi fascists: 1) Colonel Lucic, 2) Major Dongic, formerly of the Yugoslav Army, Chetnik commander, cooperator with the Germans and Nedic’s men, 3) Ilija Trifunovic-Bircanin, Draza Mihailovich’s commander for Dalmatia, 4) Milorad Ljanovski, 5) Daka Tesanovic, Chetnik commander, and 6) Lieutenant Ignjatovic. – A German officer is shown by a cross. Photo Credit: The United States holocaust Memorial Museum. (Public Domain)
According to Serbian scholars, Dr. Jovan Marjanovic & Mihail Stanisic, “The collaboration of Draza Mihailovic’s Chetniks with the enemy forces of occupation“, 1976, quote:
The Serbian chetniks of Draza Mihailovic were represented as fighters against the occupier, while in fact they were the allies of the Nazi fascists in Yugoslavia….The documents in this collection indicate clearly and unequivocally that the Chetniks collaborated with the occupiers, both in the military and political sphere, as well as in the domain of economic activity, intelligence and propaganda…
Serbia’s Union of Anti-Fascists has – on numerous occasions – protested growing falsification of history committed by Chetnik apologists who present Chetniks as “anti-fascists” who fought alongside allies.
Serbian Lobbying and Medal for a Fascist
Draza Mihailovic was the only NAZI fascist to be awarded the Legion of Merit for his “contribution” to the Allied victory. So, how did he receive this medal? According to the respected British historian and world renowned scholar of Balkan history, Dr. Marko Attila Hoare, quote:
Mihailovic continued his opportunistic game of seeking to collaborate with both Axis and Allies. In this context, he assisted the US airborne evacuation of about two-hundred and fifty airmen from Chetnik territory in August 1944. This simply meant that the Chetniks allowed the Americans to use their airstrip for the evacuation – scarcely a particularly heroic action – while at the same time, Mihailovic sent a delegation along with the departing US planes in a fruitless effort to win back Allied support. Yet it was for the rescue of US airmen that Mihailovic would posthumously receive the Legion of Merit. On other occasions, however, Mihailovic’s Chetniks rescued German airmen and handed them over safely to the German armed forces – were he so inclined, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder could follow Washington’s example and decorate Mihailovic for saving the lives of his country’s servicemen. Yet none of Mihailovic’s intrigues saved him or his Chetnik movement from destruction at the hands of the victorious Partisans: the revolution in the western Balkans – Europe’s second and last successful Communist revolution – succeeded thanks to British and American military intervention, which enabled the reestablishment of Yugoslavia. This is a fact that Milosevic’s left-wing supporters usually prefer not to mention. The Left Revisionists, November 2003]
Draza Mihailovich’s apologists like to point out that: “an independent American commission concluded in 1946, these Allied airmen were instructed by their American and British superiors to look for any signs of collaboration, they were given freedom of movement by Mihailovic forces, and yet not one of these hundreds testified of Mihailović collaboration with the Axis.“
In fact, this was far from so called “independent American commission” and the medal for Nazi collaborator Draza Mihajlovic was result of intensive lobbying by Serbian-Americans who were part of Chetnik forces. These included Lieutenant Nick Nikola Lalich (an American of Serbian heritage), Captain George Musulin (also an American of Serbian heritage), Pro-Serbian US Army Colonel Robert H. McDowell (friend of Nikola Lalich) and Ruth Mitchell, the sister of the late Gen. William (Billy) Mitchell. They lobbied for Draza Mihajlovich’s medal, and he got it as a result of their lobbying, and as a result of testimonies of many other pro-Serb oriented members of Chetnik forces who emigrated as “refugees” to the USA and other countries to avoid prosecution for war crimes.
PHOTO: In the Ranger Mission, the U.S. Army Lt. Col. Robert H. McDowell “with the help of Lieutenant Nick Lalich” (Nikola Lalich, an American of Serbian heritage), gathered intelligence on Nazi troop movements and wrote a report on Draza’s Chetniks movement. McDowell wrote a report that he “never saw any type of collaboration between Mihailovich and the Germans”, however the photo of Draza Mihailovich and pro-Serbian US Army Lt. Col. McDowell with Ustasha’s and German Nazis was recorded in this photograph taken at Dvori near Bijeljina, September 28 1944. 1) Draza Mihailovich, 2) Pro-Serbian US Army Colonel Robert H. McDowell (friend of Nikola Lalich, an American of Serbian origin who fought in Draza Mihailovich’s Chetniks), and 3) Mustafa Mulalic and a group of Ustashas. Source: Web Archive – the Trial of Dragoljub Draza Mihailovich 1946.
Allies confirm Chetnik NAZI Collaboration
At first, the western Allies had viewed the Chetniks as the core of the resistance movements in Yugoslavia against the invaders. But reports from British parachutists who had joined the fighting forces in Yugoslavia began to reach the West, indicating that the Chetniks’ policy was to fight the anti-fascist Partisans under Josip Broz Tito, rather than the Germans and their allies. Consequently, the attitude of the western Allies underwent a change in the second half of 1942, and they switched their aid to the Partisans who were fighting the German enemy. By the end of 1943, the break beetween the west and the Chetniks was complete. The Chetniks had become collaborators and joined the forces fighting the Partisans.
The first experiments in mass executions of camp inmates by poison gas were carried out in Serbia. Serbia was the first country to proudly declare itself “Judenfrei” (“cleansed” of Jews) The long concealed Historical Archives in Belgrade reveal that Banjica, a concentration camp located in Belgrade, was primarily staffed by Serbs.
As Dr Hoare points in his article “Adding Insult to Injury: Washington Decorates a Nazi Collaborator,” quote:
According to Israel Gutman’s Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, “There were many instances of Chetniks murdering Jews or handing them over to the Germans”…. The sixtieth anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany is not, one might imagine, the time when one would expect the US government to decorate Nazi collaborators. But one would be wrong. Last month, a delegation of US war-veterans posthumously presented the Legion of Merit to Serbia’s General Dragoljub ‘Draza’ Mihailovic, leader of the ‘Chetnik’ movement during World War II; a convicted war-criminal and Nazi collaborator. The award was originally made to Mihailovic in 1948, two years after his execution by the Yugoslav authorities. Yet it is only now that the US has decided to hand over the award to Mihailovic’s daughter. It is as if the US had chosen the anniversary of VE day to present an award to Marshal Petain, or to the Dutch policemen who arrested Anne Frank. The US action has provoked sharp protests from Croatians, Bosnians and Kosovars. To understand this bizarre decision, the tangled threads leading up to it require some untangling.
After War Attempts to Rewrite History
In the late 1980s, with the blessing of Slobodan Milosevic, a group of Serbs organized the Serbian Jewish Friendship Society, which has propagandized endlessly about Serbia’s ‘Holocaust decency.’ The attempts to rewrite history in Nazi Chetnik favor had limited success.
In conjunction with the war in former Yugoslavia, Serbia has undertaken a campaign to persuade the Jewish community of Serbian friendship for Jews (the Serbian Jewish Friendship Society). This same campaign portrays Bosniaks (Muslims) and Croats (Catholics) as a common threat to both Jews and Serbs, in an attempt to gain Jewish sympathy and support at a time when most nations have isolated Serbia as a Balkan pariah. However, even as Serbia courts Jewish public opinion, their propagandists conceal a history of well-ingrained antisemitism, which continues unabated in 1992. To make their case, Serbs portray themselves as victims in the Second World War, but conceal the systematic genocide that Serbs had committed against several peoples including the Jews. Thus Serbs have usurped as propaganda the Holocaust that occurred in neighbouring Croatia and Bosnia, but do not give an honest accounting of the Holocaust as it occurred in Serbia.
During four centuries of Ottoman rule in the Balkans, the Jewish communities of Serbia enjoyed religious tolerance, internal autonomy, and equality before the law, that ended with the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and the emergence of the Serbian state. Soon after a Serbian insurrection against Turkish rule in 1804, Jews were expelled from the interior of Serbia and prohibited from residing outside of Belgrade. In 1856 and 1861, Jews were further prohibited from travel for the purpose of trade. In official correspondence from the late 19th century, British diplomats detailed the cruel treatment of the Jews of Serbia, which they attributed to religious fanaticism, commercial rivalries, and the belief that Jews were the secret agents of the Turks. Article 23 of the Serbian constitution granted equality to every citizen but Article 132 forbade Jews the right of domicile. The Treaty of Berlin 1878, which formally established the Serbian state, accorded political and civil equality to the Jews of Serbia, but the Serbian Parliament resisted abolishing restrictive decrees for another 11 years. Although the legal status of the Jewish community subsequently improved, the view of Jews as an alien presence persisted.
Although Serbian historians contend that the persecution of the Jews of Serbia was entirely the responsibility of Germans and began only with the German occupation, this is self- serving fiction. Fully six months before the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia, Serbia had issued legislation restricting Jewish participation in the economy and university enrolment. One year later on 22 October 1941, the rabidly antisemitic “Grand Anti-Masonic Exhibit” opened in occupied Belgrade, funded by the city of Belgrade. The central theme was an alleged Jewish-Communist-Masonic plot for world domination. Newspapers such as Obnova (Renewal) and Nasa Borba (Our Struggle) praised this exhibit, proclaiming that Jews were the ancient enemies of the Serbian people and that Serbs should not wait for the Germans to begin the extermination of the Jews. A few months later, Serbian authorities issued postage stamps (see picture bellow) commemorating the opening of this popular exhibit. These stamps, which juxtaposed Jewish and Serbian symbols, portrayed Judaism as the source of world evil and advocated the humiliation and violent subjugation of Jews.
Serbia as well as neighboring Croatia was under Axis occupation during the Second World War. Although the efficient destruction of Serbian Jewry in the first two years of German occupation has been well documented by respected sources, the extent to which Serbia actively collaborated in that destruction has been less recognized. The Serbian government under General Milan Nedic worked closely with local Nazi officials in making Belgrade the first “Judenfrei” city of Europe. As late as 19 September 1943, Nedic made an official visit to Adolf Hitler, Serbs in Berlin advanced the idea that the Serbs were the “Ubermenchen” (master race) of the Slavs.
PHOTO: Serbian Nazi Chetnik Milan Nedic and Adolph Hitler meeting, September 19 1943.
Although the Serbian version of history portrays wartime Serbia as a helpless, occupied territory, Serbian newspapers of the period offer a portrait of intensive collaboration. In November 1941, Mihajlo Olcan, a minister in Nedic’s government boasted that “Serbia has been allowed what no other occupied country has been allowed and that is to establish law and order with its own armed forces”. Indeed, with Nazi blessings, Nedic established the Serbian State Guard, numbering about 20,000, compared to the 3,400 German police in Serbia. Recruiting advertisements for the Serb police force specified that “applicants must have no Jewish or Gypsy blood”. Nedic’s second in command was Dimitrije Ljotic, founder of the Serbian Fascist Party and the principal Fascist ideologist of Serbia. Ljotic organized the Serbian Volunteers Corps, whose primary function was rounding up Jews, Bosniaks, Gypsies, and partisans for execution. Serbian citizens and police received cash bounties for the capture and delivery of Jews.
Jews are, according to Serbian Chetnik Dimitrije Ljotic, a cursed people. In his views, there are 4 methods the Jews have of ruling over other nations and the whole world, which include: Capitalism, Democracy, Freemasonry, and Marxism. He openly called for action against Jews because they were, in his opinion, the most cynical and dangerous opponents of Christian values.
The Serbian Orthodox Church openly collaborated with the Nazis, and many priests publicly defended the persecution of the Jews. On 13 August 1941, approximately 500 distinguished Serbs signed “An Appeal to the Serbian Nation”, which called for loyalty to the occupying Nazis. The first three signers were bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church. On 30 January 1942, Metropolitan Josif, the acting head of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, officially prohibited conversions of Jews to Serbian Orthodoxy, thereby blocking a means of saving Jewish lives. At a public rally, after the government Minister Olcan “thanked God that the enormously powerful fist of Germany had not come down upon the head of the Serbian nation” but instead “upon the heads of the Jews in our midst”, the speaker of these words was then blessed by a high-ranking Serbian Orthodox priest.
A most striking example of Serbian antisemitism combined with historical revisionism is the case of Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic (1880-1956), revered as one of the most influential church leaders and ideologists after Saint Sava, founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church. To Serbs, Bishop Velimirovic was a martyr who survived torture in the Dachau prison camp. In truth he was brought to Dachau (as were other prominent European clergy), because the Nazis believed he could be useful for propaganda. There he spent approximately two months as an “Ehrenhaftling” (honour prisoner) in a special section, dining on the same food as the German officers, living in private quarters, and making excursions into town under German escort. From Dachau, this venerated Serbian priest endorsed the Holocaust, quote:
Europe is presently the main battlefield of the Jew and his father, the devil, against the heavenly Father and his only begotten Son… (Jews) first need to become legally equal with Christians in order to repress Christianity next, turn Christians into atheist, and step on their necks. All the modern European slogans have been made up by Jews, the crucifiers of Christ: democracy, strikes, socialism atheism, tolerance of all religions, pacifism, universal revolution, capitalism and communism… All this has been done with the intention to eliminate Christ… You should think about this, my Serbian brethren, and correspondingly correct your thoughts, desires and acts. (Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic: Addresses to the Serbian People–Through the Prison Window. Himmelsthur, Germany: Serbian Orthodox Eparchy for Western Europe, 1985, pp. 161-162).
Despite Serbian claims to the contrary, Germans were not alone in killing the Jews of Serbia. The long concealed Historical Archives in Belgrade reveal that Banjica, a concentration camp located in Belgrade, was primarily staffed by Serbs. Funding for the conversion of the former barracks of the Serbian 18th infantry division to a concentration, came from the municipal budget of Belgrade. The camp was divided into German and Serbian sections. From Banjica there survive death lists written entirely in Serbian in the Cyrillic alphabet. At least 23,697 victims passed through the Serbian section of this camp. Many were Jews, including at least 798 children, of whom at least 120 were shot by Serbian guards. The use of mobile gassing vans by Nazis in Serbia for the extermination of Jewish women and children has been well documented. It is less appreciated, however, that a Serbian business firm had contracted with the Gestapo to purchase these same victims cloths, which sometimes contained hidden money or jewelry in the linings. In August 1942, following the virtual liquidation of Serbia’s Jews, Nedic’s government attempted to claim all Jewish property for the Serbian state. In the same month, Dr. Harald Turner; the chief of the Nazi civil administration of Serbia, boasted that Serbia was the only country in which the “Jewish question” was solved. Turner himself attributed this “success” to Serbian help. Thus, 94 percent of Serbia’s 16,000 Jews were exterminated, with the considerable cooperation of the Serbian government, the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Serbian State Guard, the Serbian police and the Serbian public.
Today, many Serbs proudly cite the Chetniks as a resistance force and even claim that the Chetniks were somehow allied with the United States during the Second World War, but this is simply historical revisionism. According to the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Chetnik resistance against the Nazis came to a complete stop as early as the end of 1941. Thereafter, the Chetnik resistance actively collaborated with the both Nazis and Fascists, and for this reason Jewish fighters found it necessary to abandon the Chetniks, in favour of Tito’s Partisans. In reality, the Chetniks, dedicated primarily to the restoration of the Serbian throne and territorial expansion of the Serbian state, were the moral counterpart of Croatia’s Ustatsha. Both were quintessentially genocidal; the Chetniks committed systematic genocide against Bosniaks Muslims, who, for nearly all of 500 years had lived peacefully with the Sephardic Jewish community. Under explicit orders from their leader Draze Mihajlovic, the Chetniks attempted to depopulate Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia of all non-Serbs and in the process, massacred most of the 103,000 Bosniaks who perished during the war.
The main force of Serbian Chetniks rallied around Draza Mihailovic, a 48 year-old Army officer who had been court-martialed by Nedic and who had close ties to Britain. Early in the war, Mihailovic offered some resistance to the German forces while collaborating with the Italians. By July 22, 1941, the Yugoslav Government-in-Exile in Britain announced that continued resistance was impossible. Although Mihailovic and his exiled government would maintain a fierce propaganda campaign to convince the Allies that his Chetniks were inflicting great damage to the Axis, they did little for the war effort and often openly collaborated with the Germans and Italians while fighting the Partizans. At its peak, Mihailovic’s Chetniks claimed to have 300,000 troops. In fact they never numbered over 31,000.
Meanwhile, Josip Broz Tito, organized multi-ethnic resistance group, which took up the fight against the Nazis, as well as against the Ustasha’s and Chetniks. The overwhelming bulk of resistance activity against German nazis occurred in Bosnia and Croatia. According to Yugoslav statistics, at the height of the war in late 1943, there were 122,000 partisans active in Croatia, 108,000 in Bosnia, and only 22,000 in Serbia. The largest proportion of Bosnian partisans were Bosniaks Muslims, who were being slaughtered by all sides.
Attempts to form a pro-Axis Bosniak division failed when the Bosniak Muslim conscripts revolted against the Germans at a training base south of Le Puy, France in September 1943. It was the only large-scale mutiny within the German army during the War.
The Bosniak-Muslim clergy in 1941 issued resolutions condemning atrocities being carried out by Ustashe and Chetniks, and condemned persecution of Jews and Serbs. Bosniaks Muslims suffered the highest per capita losses of any nationality in Yugoslavia.
Serbian Chetnik forces initially fought against the Ustashe regime, as its goal of a “Greater Serbia” was in conflict with the Ustashe’s “Greater Croatia”. But the Chetniks’ main enemy was the partisans, so Chetniks eventually became full-scale collaborators of the Nazis.
By February 1943 the Western Allies condemned the Chetniks as collaborators, threw their support to the Partisans and began to airdrop supplies to the Partisans. Mihailovic was executed in 1946 for treason. Ironically, his son and daughter Branko and Gordana went over to the Partisans in 1943 and both publicly supported their father’s execution after the war.
While it is true that during the War, both the Partisans and pro-German Serbian-Nazi Chetniks aided Allied pilots in escaping, they did so because they were paid in gold for each one.
For years, the Serbian dominated Belgrade government has supported and trained PLO terrorists. Immediately after the murder of Leon Klinghoffer aboard the Achille Lauro in 1985, the terrorist mastermind Abu Abbas was welcomed in Belgrade. Since the late 1980’s, Abu-Nidal has maintained a large terrorist infrastructure in Yugoslavia, in coordination with Libyan, Iraqi, and Yugoslav intelligence services. During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, as Iraqi missiles landed in Israel, Belgrade supported its ally Iraq.
Although the Jewish community of Serbia is not currently experiencing persecution, overt expressions of Serbian antisemitism do surface in such mainstream institutions as the Serbian Orthodox Church and the official news media. The 15 January 1992 issue of the official publication of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Pravoslavlje (Orthodoxy), carried an article entitled, “Jews Crucify Christ Again.” In this polemic, “treacherous” and “surreptitious” Israeli politicians were said to be constrained from expressing their “pathological” hatred of Christians openly because “they know that Christian countries gave them the state.” Allegedly, nuns are so frequently beaten in Israel, that one nun was actually “happy, because they only spit in her face.” Only weeks later, when Russia extended diplomatic recognition to the former Yugoslav republics of Croatia and Slovenia, the official Yugoslav (Serbian perspective) news agency Tanjug blamed “a Jewish conspiracy” against Serbia, hauntingly reminiscent of the theme of the 1941 anti-Masonic exhibit.
The essential strategy of Serbian propaganda is to portray the spiritual kinship between Jews and Serbs as victims of the Holocaust and endangered by Croats. This concept is disseminated through the Serbian-Jewish Friendship Society, founded in Belgrade in 1988 and supported by the Serbian government. In January and February 1992, Dr. Klara Mandic, the secretary-general and principal voice of this organization, syndicated a chilling article in the North American Jewish press. This article alleged that Ankica Konjuh, an elderly Jewish woman, was tortured and murdered by “Croat extremists” in September 1991. However, even as she released this story to the press, Dr. Mandic knew that Ankica Konjuh was neither a Jew nor could have been killed by Croats. Bona-fide witnesses have testified that Ankica Konjuh, a 67 year-old Croat, was one of 240 civilians massacred by Serbian forces after the last Croat defenders were driven from the region. Moreover on 23 December 1991, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia met in Belgrade and demanded in writing that Dr. Mandic cease and desist misrepresenting Ankica Konjuh as the first Jewish victim of the war. Nevertheless, in late February 1992, when Dr. Mandic lectured at the Hillel House of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., she provided the rabbi with a copy of that misleading article, delivered without further comment. It is noteworthy that this speaking engagement was part of a tour arranged by Wise Communications, a Washington-based public relations firm representing the Serbian oil company Jugopetrol, a thinly veiled proxy for the Communist Belgrade government. Beginning with the proposition that antisemitism has never existed in Serbia, Dr. Mandic portrayed Croatia as preparing to repeat the Holocaust. She claimed to be a “Jewish leader,” although Jews are distinctly absent from her constituency. Less than half a dozen Jews are actual members of her society of several thousand. She introduced herself as an “eyewitness” speaking on behalf of Croatian Jews, although since the war began, she has had no contact with any of the nine Jewish communities of Croatia. When Dr. Mandic was asked to comment on Serbian (Yugoslav Army) shelling of the synagogue of Dubrovnik, the second oldest surviving synagogue in Europe, she denied that the synagogue had ever been damaged at all. Meanwhile, the attack has been well documented by the Jewish community of Dubrovnik and the World Monument Fund.
Jewish sensitivity to the Holocaust is similarly exploited by the Jewish-Serbian Friendship Society of America (Granada Hills, California), an offshoot of Dr. Mandic’s organization. Its newsletter equates the Jewish and Serbian positions during World War II, both as victims of Croats, but fails to mention Serbian complicity in the Holocaust, Serbian collaboration with the Nazis, and Serbian genocide against Croats, Gypsies, and Bosniaks Muslims. It warns of an imminent Holocaust being initiated in Croatia. A contrasting portrayal of Croatia, however, emerges from a spectrum of Croatian Jews, American Jews who have visited Croatia, and international Jewish agencies monitoring events on site. All concur that there is no state-sponsored antisemitism in Croatia; the rights of the Jewish minority are respected; and antisemitic incidents are virtually unknown. Thus, only a few dozen of the 2,000 Jews of Croatia have chosen to emigrate to Israel since the war began.
Serbia of today and Germany in World War II offer striking parallels. In 1991, Vojislav Seselj, a member of the Serbian Parliament and leader of the Serbian irregulars who call themselves Chetniks, declared, “We want no one else on our territory and we will fight for our true borders.” Croats and Bosniaks in Serbian conquered regions are forced to wear red-and-white armbands, analogous to the yellow armbands worn by Jews in Serbia during the Holocaust. The stated purpose of the expulsion of Bosniaks and Croats from captured regions is “ethnic cleansing.” The indigenous non-Serbian populations of the invaded territories are being driven from their homes, exterminated, or imprisoned in concentration camps, to create regions of Serbian ethnic purity. Jewish community centres, synagogues, and cemeteries have been damaged and destroyed by characteristically indiscriminate Serbian artillery attacks. To all of this, the Jewish-Serbian Friendship Society has remained conspicuously silent.
Belgrade has promoted the myth of Serbian kinship with the Jews as fellow victims of Nazi oppression, while concealing the true extent of Serbian collaboration with the Nazis. It is ironic that Serbia is now seeking Jewish support for a war in which both the idealogy and methodology so tragically echo nazism. The European Community, the Helsinki Commission, the United Nations, and the United States have all condemned Serbia as the aggressor. Western diplomats have characterized the current Serbian regime as “a lying, terrorist criminal organization.” Serbia, however, claims to be the victim and campaigns for Jewish sympathy and support, exploiting the powerful symbolism of the Holocaust. Serbia’s professed solicitude for the Jewish people must be reexamined.