By Julia Gorin, reposted on 1389 Blog
NOTE: I’ve bumped this blog up from yesterday, with a new headline, as I’d gotten The Ledger’s day of publication wrong. It’s today. So An abridged version of the article below now appears at Connecticut Jewish Ledger.
On November 4th in Toronto, Haifa University conferred an honorary doctorate degree in philosophy on Jason Kenney, Canada’s immigration minister.
Pro-Israel people certainly have reason to be fans of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government and specifically of Mr. Kenney, who in March condemned Israel Apartheid Week, saying “The organizers of Israel Apartheid Week use the cover of academic freedom to demonize and delegitimize the State of Israel…This week runs contrary to Canadian values of tolerance, mutual respect, and understanding.”
Nonetheless, Mr. Kenney should give the pro-Israel community some pause. He has called WWII Croatian Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac “one of the great heroes of the 20th Century.” On his desk he keeps “a prayer card with a picture of Cardinal Stepinac, who was himself a kind of martyr for Croatia and the faith,” Kenney told a Croatian delegation gathered in 2009.
As those who don’t ignore history are aware, Stepinac oversaw the first successful genocide of WWII — that of Jews, Serbs and Roma in Croatia — which was a precursor to the wider Holocaust. His lobbying in 1941 on behalf of a group of arrested priests agitating for a fascist coup in Yugoslavia led directly to the rise of Croatia’s WWII Ustasha regime, headed by the nationalist-terrorist leader whom the group of priests was involved with, Fuehrer Ante Pavelic. The crimes committed by the Ustashas against Orthodox Serbs in particular were so brutal in their crudeness and relish that German officials complained to Berlin. Photos of Stepinac blessing Ustasha soldiers before slaughters are still viewable today.
Even if, as his champions argue, Stepinac later came to dislike Pavelic (whom he had blessed and presented to Pius XII), one cannot first help bring about the darkness and then claim heroic status for saving a few of the Jewish and Orthodox victims he helped create. This is why Yad Vashem has repeatedly turned down requests to grant Stepinac “Righteous” status.
Unfortunately, nothing prevented Pope John Paul II from callously beatifying the man, ignoring the protests by relatives of the victims, and a request by the Simon Wiesenthal Center to hold off. Stepinac himself may not have been a “monster” as Pavelic was, but he was what one would call “a company man” who went along, in the interest of creating a Catholic Croatia. With full knowledge not only that conversions were taking place at gunpoint, but that the clergy under him were themselves active participants in atrocities and mass murders. His criminality was more substantive than technical, careful as he was to leave history no smoking gun.
Could Haifa University really be unaware of Mr. Kenney’s admiration for the blesser of Jew- and Orthodox-killers? Or has it never been introduced to the name Stepinac?
At a November 2010 meeting with Croatian community representatives, Kenney said that Prime Minister Harper “paid his respects at the tomb of Cardinal Stepinac, which I have done myself, and that was an acknowledgement of Canada’s understanding of the sacrifices of those who stood for their faith, for their country, during those dark decades. And Cardinal Stepinac was of course a principal voice of contradiction — as John Paul II would have said — who really represented the spirit of the Croatian people.”
Kenney was referring to the dark decades of Communism, and he described Croatia’s ambitions in purely “national aspiration” terms, which the people were being “denied” by socialist Yugoslavia. Never mind the swastikas and Ustasha symbols and street names that were going up all over Croatia when it finally did start asserting those aspirations in 1991, and the official downgrading of non-Croats to third-class citizens, not to mention the handful of actual, exiled WWII Ustasha officials being brought back into government.
It seems Mr. Kenney’s Stepinac clock only started at Communism, and ignores WWII. So he wouldn’t have a very deep understanding of the 1991-95 war, which was a direct pick-up from the latter. It follows, then, that he would place “Canada’s” solidarity with Catholic Croatia over the Orthodox Serbs it cleansed (twice), and that Stepinac — painted innocently as a mere “enemy of Communism” — would be his hero. But the fact is that it was originally Stepinac’s aversion to Communism (understandable especially for a religious man) which caused him to help usher in Fascism.
While Stepinac’s war crimes prosecution did have a Communist agenda underlying it, the sentence was surprisingly mild (coming from forces that Kenney refers to in such sinister tones without devoting the same attention to the more ruthless clerical fascism that preceded them): Stepinac was allowed to live, and was sentenced ultimately to house arrest, as opposed to being summarily executed as was standard practice for Tito’s Serb enemies.
Canada’s conservative government has been singular in its support of Israel, and Kenney recently signed the Ottawa Protocol on Combating Antisemitism, upon which he stated, according to Canadian Friends of Haifa University: “In Nazi Germany the Jews were stripped of citizenship, denied their natural rights, and their very right to exist was called into question.”
This is exactly what happened to the Orthodox Serbs (and the Jews) in WWII Croatia, under Stepinac’s watchful eye. It is inconsistent for Kenney to be for Jews, and to be for someone who brought about their demise. Regardless, being pro-Jewish is not a license to be pro-anti-Orthodox.
Kenney told the group of Croats gathered at the November 2010 meeting that the 2009 lifting of visa restrictions (after heavy Croatian lobbying) was a show of Canadian solidarity with Croatia. Canada Border Services Agency warned of the increased possibility of war criminals trying to escape to Canada, pointing out that Croatia had “passed an amnesty law in 1996 affecting approximately 14,000 people who had been involved in armed aggression and conflict,” according to Canadian Press of July 15, 2009. “Amnesty International noted in its 2009 report that ‘there was a continuing failure to investigate war crimes committed by the Croatian army and police force.’”
Of course, when Canada’s own immigration minister idolizes a war criminal, it’s all probably of little concern. Kenney prides himself on being a devout Roman Catholic, but someone with his level of devoutness to a war criminal should not be celebrated, much less by a Jewish institution.
If there is any doubt about Stepinac being a war criminal (even in the face of his having had an official position in Hitler-aligned Croatia and working for its advancement to the last day of the war, not to mention his having appointed the Conversion Board), one can ask this: Why is it that at Croatian cultural centers throughout the Croatian diaspora, a portrait of Stepinac hangs alongside a portrait or bust of Fuehrer Pavelic? Indeed, masses for Pavelic are still held in Croatia every December, to the repeated but ignored objections of The Simon Wiesenthal Center. And no one else.
NOTE: The article above is the original version which readers of the Connecticut Jewish Ledger are being directed to from the shorter version appearing there today. It was originally quashed by a Jewish wire service after the editor vetted it through one of those familiar “experts,” who are expert in reciting the official, permitted narrative of the Balkans, itself carefully crafted starting toward the end of WWII.
The piece regained life last Friday when I managed — after appealing to Arianna Huffington directly — to get it placed at Huffington Post. But on Saturday, without any notice or explanation, it was pulled, the URL redirecting to a page reading, “Editor’s Note: This post is no longer available on the Huffington Post.” Upon pressing the editors, I got a short reply that there were factual inaccuracies that were potentially libelous. I am still waiting to hear what those were. Rather than answer me, Huffington Post will happily retreat to its comfort zone of feeding on whatever everyone else in “journalism” is feeding on.
And so we are left with the foul but familiar situation, in which Jews and Jew-haters alike (that would be Huffington Post) are protecting the Axis-spun “historical record” while knowing absolutely nothing about it — not even that this is what they’re doing. Nor are they aware that they’ve merely reenacted, to a tee, the uniform reaction I get every time I introduce the subject of WWII Croatia, or Kosovo, or Bosnia to a publication. Only the names of the clones change, depending on which media outlet I’m dealing with. The suppression is unofficial, and unfailing.
When I told my friend Michael Pravica about it this week, he told me the story of how his friend, Buchenwald survivor John Ranz, had been invited by a Jewish organization some years ago to speak about his concentration camp experiences — and for a handsome sum of money. But, they advised, there was one caveat: He was not to bring up the Serbs. And so Ranz declined the invitation.
Michael also recalled phoning in to a radio station in 1998, which was hosting a Catholic bishop. The subject that day: “Who are the Orthodox?” As an Orthodox Christian, Michael said to the bishop (as he recapped it for me): Thank you for taking my call, Your Grace. You’re talking about Orthodox-Catholic reconciliation, but at the same time you’re trying to canonize a man who, at the very least, did nothing to save Orthodox Serbs when they were being liquidated by Catholic Croatia in WWII. How can you expect reconciliation in such a case?” Michael told me the bishop was decent enough to admit he had no satisfactory answer for him on this.
Finally, I received the following paragraph from Professor Emeritus John Peter Maher on Saturday, which — if I’ve understood correctly — he’d posted as a comment under the Huffington Post article before it mysteriously disappeared:
Sixteen years of my education were in Catholic schools. I have an MA in Greek & Latin from The Catholic University of America in Greek & Latin. Previously I had studied [for] the RC priesthood. In the Cold War I learned Serbo-Croatian, and added a couple more languages on my own. I served in the US Army Counter-Intelligence Corps, serving on the Yugoslav desk of a CIC unit in Italy 1959-61. I have translated a biography of one of the tens of thousands of Serb Orthodox children, most of them orphaned by murderous Catholics and Muslims. These babies were forcibly converted to Catholicism and “adopted”. I have translated the biography of one of them, who as a girl received Catholic First Holy Communion from Stepinac in the Jastrebarsko concentration camp for children, something even Hitler never had. After “adoption” and clean-up, her Croat adoptive father took her to the Zagreb cathedral for her second First Holy Communion. When she told him “I have seen that priest before, in the Jastrebarsko camp,” he railed at her: “How dare you! That is our beloved Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac.” So, now he’s on a holy card on Kenney’s desk, and Kenney is a guest of honor at Haifa University.
And so you see, Readers, there are the allowable controversies — those are the ones you hear debated — and then there are real controversies. Those are the ones you don’t even know exist.
Croatian Catholic Cardinal Stepinac, front center, was a deputy in the Sabor, the pseudo-legislature of the Nazi-like Croatian Ustashi dictatorship. (Thanks to Emperors Clothes)
Blessing Ustasha soldiers (Emperors Clothes)
Franciscan monk and Ustasha soldier, Stane Kukavica
Ustasha holding one of many Serb heads; eventually defrocked priest Miroslav Filipovic, who briefly ran Jasenovac camp
Ustashas posing with the head of a Serb priest
“Kill all the Serbs, including children, so that not even the seeds of the beast are left.”
– Friar Ivan Raguzh, of Stolic in Eastern Herzegovina
“The silence of Jewish organizations is less easily explained… [The late Milan Bulajic, of Belgrade’s Genocide Museum, met] officials of the Holocaust Museum [in Washington to] find out why no one mentions the Yugoslav Jews who died there. He did not seem to get a clear-cut answer…”
– Andrew Borowiec, “Croatian-run Death Site Remains Dark Secret,” Washington Times, July 5, 1994
John Paul II praying at the body of Stepinac, whom he beatified in 1998