By Carl Savich | The largest act of ethnic cleansing in Europe since the Holocaust and World War II occurred in Krajina in 1995. It was a genuine and real act of genocide committed during the Yugoslav conflicts of the 1990s. Because it was planned and orchestrated by the U.S., however, it remains censored and covered-up. The Krajina genocide represents a genocide that has not been acknowledged or punished. (This article first appeared on Serbianna in 2000.)
“True wars, wars between races, are merciless and fought to the last man, until one side or the other is eliminated without trace.” — Heinrich Himmler, Reichsfuehrer-SS and Chief of German Police
“Genocide is a natural phenomenon, in harmony with the … divine nature. Genocide is not only permitted, it is also recommended, even commanded by the word of the Almighty Yaweh.” — Franjo Tudjman, The Wasteland of Historical Reality, 1989
What is the historical legacy of Jasenovac and the experience of genocide, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing which occurred in the Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska (NDH) during the period 1941-1945? What occurred to the Serbian Orthodox population of the Krajina region?
On May 1, 1995, the Croatian Army attacked and overran United Nations Protected Area Sector West, the Serbian majority region of Western Slavonija, killing over 3,300 Serbian civilians of the Republika Srpska Krajina, demolishing Serbian houses, and ethnically cleansing over 20,000, who fled to Bosnia and Serbia.
All the episcopates or bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church were expelled, their residences were destroyed and the remaining Orthodox churches were looted, damaged, or destroyed. The Slavonian Eparchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church, founded in the 16th century, was completely destroyed.
The Orthodox Church of St. Demetrius in Okucani, built in 1751, was severely damaged and ransacked. St. Demetrius was first demolished in 1942 by the NDH regime, was rebuilt in 1969, but was again damaged in 1991 by Croat Army troops.
In this ”UN Protected Area”, Serbian civilians were killed and their homes destroyed and looted by Croat soldiers as UN peacekeepers stood by, in the following villages: Pankovac, Medari, Smrtic, Vrbovljani, Donji Bogicevci, Gradjani, and Covac.
Croat aircraft and artillery shelled a refugee column of 2,000 near Nova Varos, killing a reported 200 men, women, and children.
In launching the military offensive, code named Operation Lightning, the Croat government of Franjo Tudjman grossly and flagrantly violated UN Security Council Resolutions protecting the human rights of the Serbian population of the UN Protected Area, Sector West. The Croatian government had the diplomatic, political, and military support of the United States and Germany. U.S. Ambassador to Croatia, Peter Galbraith even sat in on high-level Croat military meetings which planned military operations against the UN Protected Areas. Croatia was a ”client state” and the ”White House and the State Department were hoping the Croats would deal the Serbs a blow.” The UN and NATO did nothing to protect the UN Protected Area. Air strikes were not called by the UN although UN posts and UN peacekeepers were the first targets of the Croat forces.
After overrunning Jasenovac, the site of the World War II NDH concentration camp, the St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church, built in 1775, was desecrated, looted, and demolished. The St. John the Baptist Church was previously destroyed and burned in 1941 by Croat troops and was rebuilt in 1984 only to be again destroyed in 1995. In 1991, the church was damaged by the Croat Army.
The Jasenovac Memorial Museum and Center, a memorial to the hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies murdered by the Croatian NDH government from 1941 to 1945, were looted, desecrated, and heavily damaged. The UN and the so-called international community did nothing. The Serbian majority population of Western Slavonija, a so-called UN Protected Area, was eradicated and ethnically cleansed, their homes were looted, destroyed, and burned. For ethnic Serbs, it was a repeat of the past. Serbs were condemned to repeat the past within a short interval of fifty years. Those Serbs who survived the NDH genocide witnessed a repeat of history, a “final solution”.
On August 4, 1995, the Croat government launched a massive military offensive against UN Protected Areas, Sectors South and North, the Serbian majority area of Krajina. The Croat offensive was launched with the shelling of Knin, bombarded with 10,000 shells on August 4 and 5. As with the earlier attack on UN Protected Area, Sector West, the Croat Army first attacked UN peacekeepers and their posts. In the initial assault, 3 UN peacekeepers were killed, one from Denmark and two from the Czech Republic, while 20 other UN peacekeepers were wounded. The UN reported that ”their death is the result of a direct artillery attack by the Croatian Army on their observer post.” The UN and NATO, however, took no action. Indeed, U.S. NATO aircraft bombed Krajina Serb missile batteries in Knin! NATO was in fact supporting the Croat offensive against a UN Protected Area! U.S. Ambassador Galbraith and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright did nothing, even though the Croat Army was overrunning a UN Protected Area which the UN had itself established.
On August 9, near Vrginmost, British journalist John Scoffield was deliberately killed at close range by Croat soldiers. Scoffield was part of a BBC crew which was filming Serbian houses being torched by Croat troops. Two of Scoffield’s colleagues were wounded.
UN Spokesman Chris Gunness stated that the goal of the Croat offensive was part of a systematic and planned strategy to terrorize Serbian civilians to force them to flee their homes in Krajina: ”We suspect that the goal of this war was to drive people off their territory and take their land. We are confronting a looming humanitarian disaster.”
In Knin, Croat artillery targeted UN headquarters and the Knin hospital. The UN accused the Croat Army of indiscriminate shelling of civilian targets and reported that the main hospital was hit twice by Croat artillery shells. Several hundred men, women, and children and elderly persons gathered at the UN headquarters building to seek shelter from the shelling. Seven Serbian civilians were killed and several dozen were wounded when a shell landed in front of the UN building.
David Rohde, in the Christian Science Monitor of August 7, 1995, reported that ”few governments – most noticeably the US – are voicing concern over how the Croatian operation is being conducted.” The majority Serbian population of Krajina was being butchered and ethnically cleansed as if they were cattle or swine. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl went on vacation. European diplomats were unconcerned, even though in theory at least, the Croat attack, which included over 100,000 regular army troops, threatened to plunge Europe into the largest war since World War II. But apparently they knew something which they were not telling. They knew the Krajina would be allowed to fall and that its Serbian majority would be butchered like cattle or swine and ethnically cleansed from their ancestral lands. The U.S. State Department justified the attack on the grounds that Croatia was establishing control over its ‘internationally recognized borders.”
Knin, which had a pre-war majority Serbian population of 88% was looted and burned and its Serbian inhabitants were forced to flee. Over 300,000 Krajina Serbs would be ethnically cleansed in the largest single act of ethnic cleansing during the entire Yugoslav conflict. Only this time, the ethnic cleansing would be done with the tacit approval and guidance of the US government and media.
As a client state of the U.S., a Balkan banana republic, the ”fledgling democracy” of Croatia need not be concerned with the human rights of the Krajina Serbs. Accordingly, the Croat forces wasted no time in completely cleansing the majority Serbian Krajina region, butchering those elderly Serbs that chose to remain.
Tom Hundley, in the Chicago Tribune, September 11, 1995, in ”Elderly massacred in Krajina attack”, reported the following:
“On August 25, Croatian troops entered Grubori and killed everyone they found. These included: Marija Grubor, 90, whose charred remains were found in her burned house. Milos Grubor, 80, an invalid who was found in his bedroom, shot once in the head and once in the back. The killers attempted to set the house on fire… Jovo Grubor, 65, whose throat was slit and who had been stabbed repeatedly … Djuro Kavanovic … and Mika Grubor… who were found together in a pasture, both shot in the head at close range… In Radinovic, five corpses identified to be those of elderly Serbs, ages 55 to 70… were shown to UN civilian police… One of the corpses, identified as Nikola Panic, an invalid, was decapitated.” The head was discovered a short distance away, in a pig sty… Most of the houses… have been ransacked and torched.”
Monitors from the European Union prepared the following report on the ethnic cleansing and atrocities in Krajina:
“Evidence of atrocities, an average of six corpses per day, continues to emerge. The corpses, some fresh, some decomposed, are mainly of old men. Many have been shot in the back of the head or had throats slit, others have been mutilated… Serb lands continue to be torched and looted… The crimes have been perpetrated by the HV (Croatian Army) the CR (Croatian) police and CR civilians. There have been no observed attempts to stop it…”
On August 11, 1995, the EU Monitoring Mission found the body of an old man with a gun shot wound to the head in the village of Golubac. On August 27, in the village of Gosic, the bodies of 7 massacred Serb civilians were found, all about 70 years old. On September 11, the bodies of two women were found, killed by gun shots to the head at close range. On September 28, in the village of Varivode near Kistanje, 9 elderly Serbian civilians, from 65 to 80 years of age, were found massacred in front of their houses. The UN found 4 bodies near Knin, 3 with bullet wounds to the head. The right hand finger of one of the bodies had been amputated. The fourth body was mutilated beyond recognition.
In this U.S. and German sponsored attack, Operation Storm, modeled on Nazi blitzkrieg strategy (the Nazi strategy of ‘lightning war’) and the U.S. Gulf War Operation Desert Storm, the Croats engaged in a large-scale planned and systematic destruction and plunder of all Serbian dwellings, industrial facilities, hospitals, schools, and churches and historical monuments. The Orthodox Krka Monastery, built in the 14th century, was destroyed and looted, as were 43 other Orthodox churches in the Bukovice and Ravni Kotari regions. The 15th century Krupa Orthodox monastery was burned down by the Croatian army.
On September 27, 1995, a UN spokesperson reported that UN military observers had visited 240 villages in former Sector South and had found that 73% of the buildings had been burned down. In an October 12, 1995 report, the UN stated that UN observers had visited 389 villages in Sector South and had found that 16,578 houses had been burned down or severely damaged.
In launching this massive attack, the Croat government received not only the diplomatic and political support of the U.S. and Germany, but also U.S. and German military support. Routinely, Jumbo jets from Iran would bring massive shipments of arms to Zagreb openly. These massive arms shipments to Croatia from Iran and other Islamic countries were difficult to miss. The U.S. government, however, allowed illegal arms shipments to continue to flow to Croatia, in flagrant contravention of the UN arms embargo imposed on the former Yugoslavia, an embargo the U.S. voted for. But in 1994, the U.S. unilaterally announced that it would break the UN arms embargo for Croatia and the Bosnian Muslims. Weapons and military equipment flowed into Croatia.
All that was needed now was military training and planning. This was provided to the Croat government by Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI), an Alexandria, Virginia based firm which provides ‘generals for hire’ for those nations which seek to purchase military expertise, or to rent a general, one of the more bizarre aspects of the New World Order with an absurd new role of the “military industrial complex” within it. The firm had over 2,000 retired generals and admirals and other officers on call and a staff of 160 full-time employees. Retired four-star General Carl Vuono headed MPRI’s growing overseas business and Crosbie “Butch” Saint, once the chief of the US Army’s operations in Europe, headed the MPRI office in Europe.
For the year of 1994, MPRI had 15 military advisers in Croatia, a contingent headed by retired two-star General Richard Griffiths. According to MPRI, ”they have been teaching the Croats to run a military force in a democracy,” and recently signed a second contract to reorganize Croatia’s Defense Ministry. MPRI has close contacts with the Pentagon, US State Department, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
On left, the body of an elderly Krajina Serb woman killed in Siroka Kula on August 8, 1995 by Croat forces during the military assault. On right, the body of a Krajina Serb soldier in Bruvno on September 2, 1995 with the flesh stripped to the bone by Croat troops.
Charles Boyd, a recently retired four-star Air Force General and ”the Pentagon’s No.2 man in Europe”, commented as follows on MPRI’s role in training and advising the Croat military in launching the attack on Krajina: “Carl Vuono and Butch Saint are hired guns and in for the money. They did a very good job for the Croats, and I have no doubt they’ll do a good job in Bosnia.”
In the attacks on Western Slavonija and Krajina, roughly over 300,000 Serbs were ethnically cleansed and thousands murdered and their houses burned, looted and destroyed in what amounted to genocide with flagrant crimes against humanity and war crimes on a massive scale showing an utter disregard for human rights. For the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the majority Serbian population of Krajina, no charges were brought against the Croatian government. No charges were brought for crimes against humanity under the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the statutes of the UN War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague. No violations of the laws or customs of war charge was brought, although recognized by the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the Hague Tribunal. No charges were brought for grave breaches for inhumane treatment although recognized by the Hague Tribunal.
Under the UN Genocide Convention, genocide is defined as follows:
Article II. In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Genocide is to be prevented and punished as stated in Article I of the Convention: ”The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or time of war, is a crime against international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.” But the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Serbian population of Krajina, Western Slavonija, and Croatia was neither prevented nor punished.
Serbs had first settled the Krajina region in 822 AD. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Lika, Kordun, Slavonija, Banija, and Srem were settled by Serbian families invited by the Austrian government to form military garrisons to defend the frontier against the incursions of the Muslim Ottoman Turks. This region was a majority Serb area known as the Srpska Vojna Krajina, or the Serbian Military Frontier Province. The Serbian population of Croatia was almost a quarter of the total Croat population before World War II. Following the NDH genocide from 1941 to 1945, the Serbian population was reduced to 12% of the total Croat population. Following the attacks on Western Slavonija and Krajina, less than 2% of the total Croat population is made up of Serbs. From 1991 to 1995, over 650,000 Serbs have been ethnically cleansed from Croatia. Helsinki Human Rights Watch reported that over 10,000 Serbian houses have been destroyed in Croatia in a planned and systematic campaign, called a “dynamite campaign”:
“Since 1991, the Croatian authorities have blown up or razed 10,000 houses, mostly of Serbs… In some cases, they dynamited homes with the families inside. Whole families were killed. Many were wounded.”
The Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate in Belgrade reported that 100 of the 156 Orthodox churches in Croatia had been destroyed. Thus, the Serbian presence in Krajina and Croatia has been “eliminated without trace”.
Croatian troops in Crkveni Bok painted graffiti on destroyed Krajina Serb houses writing “NDH” for Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska and “U” for Ustasha, August, 1995.
What is the historical legacy of Jasenovac? In January 1996, Croat President Franjo Tudjman announced in a speech to the Sabor, or Croatian Parliament, that ”the memorial ground of the martyrs of the fascist terror – Jasenovac, should become a memorial ground of all Croatian martyrs of the war – especially those martyrs of the war in the homeland.” Tudjman proposed that the bodies of Ustashi troops be exhumed and their remains reburied at Jasenovac, which would serve as the common memorial for both victims and Ustashi executioners as an act of reconciliation.
This proposal by Tudjman to make Jasenovac a common memorial for Ustashi and their Serbian, Jewish, and Gypsy victims created outrage in the Serbian and Jewish communities. Jewish publisher Slavko Goldstein, whose grandfather, grandmother, uncle and aunt were murdered at Jasenovac and whose father was murdered at Jadovno, wrote an open letter to Tudjman as follows:
“Leave our dead in peace. Do not offend them by a forced joint memorial… I appeal to you to give up the morbid digging up of bones and rearranging of graves… Jasenovac is their cemetery… 16 to 17 thousand Jews killed there as well as Serbs, Croats and Gypsies…They were killed by the members of the military formation-Ustashi Defense (the third department of the Ustashi supervising service) under the command of Maks Luburic, who were completely in charge… of all the concentration camps in the NDH. A large portion of the members of that criminal unit was arrested and killed in the area of Bleiburg, Dravograd, Maribor and Krizni Put. Now you wish to transfer the bones of these murderers to Jasenovac to lie next to the bones of their victims.”
The Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church stated that it ”heartily supports all efforts to stop the truly monstrous plan of creating a combined memorial to the victims of the martyrdom at Jasenovac and their executioners who now lie in Bleiburg.”
John Pomfret, in the March 10, 1996 Washington Post, stated that ”the exhumation of the remains of the Croat fascist soldiers elsewhere and their reburial at Jasenovac would make this the only place in Europe where the victims of a World War II concentration camp are interred with soldiers of the army that rounded up and killed them.” Pomfret quoted a “Western diplomat” who stated that Tudjman ” is turning Croatia into another Paraguay, another little Latin American country with a semi-capitalist economy. People here… are getting the same Communist system back.” A ‘little Latin American country with a semi-capitalist economy’ is better known as a banana republic. Franjo Tudjman’s ”fledgling democracy” Croatia had become a Balkan banana republic in the New World Order.
In attempting to create a “memorial of reconciliation” out of Jasenovac by reburying Ustashi troops there, Tudjman is completing the process begun with the book The Wasteland of Historical Reality, published in 1989, of rewriting history. In so doing, he killed the victims at Jasenovac a second time. The NDH having killed their bodies, Tudjman now killed their memory. It is as if Jasenovac never even existed. Jasenovac never was. The people are “cleansed” and then the history is “cleansed”.
George Orwell succinctly explained how this process of destroying and rewriting the past is accomplished in his book, 1984:
“Who controls the past… controls the future: who controls the present controls the past… All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. Reality control they called it; in Newspeak, ‘doublethink.’”
In 1998, the U.S. State Department acknowledged that at least 120,000 persons had been killed at the Jasenovac concentration camp by December 1943. At the Stara Gradiska concentration camp, the State Department, quoting a German Wehrmacht report from U.S. war crimes archives, acknowledged that Ustasha Major Max Luburic had ordered that 80,000 persons be killed, while 20,000 were killed at the other Ustasha concentration or death camps. So the U.S. State Department acknowledged that 220,000 persons had been killed in the Ustasha concentration camps by December 1943. These U.S. government acknowledgments came during the extradition of Dinko Sakic, 76, who held senior command posts at Jasenovac for three years and who was camp commander for one year, when Max Luburic was transferred to Zagreb. Sakic was married to Nada Luburic, the sister of Max Luburic. Sakic had been arrested in Argentina, at his home south of Buenos Aires. Not revealed in the State Department report was the role of U.S. Intelligence in the escape of alleged Ustasha war criminals from Croatia and to Argentina following World War II in the infamous ‘rat lines’, organized by the Vatican through its operatives, U.S. Roman Catholic organizations such as the National Catholic Welfare Organization, and U.S. intelligence, the U.S. Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC). Information on the rat lines was not revealed by the State Department when it released the German documents on Sakic to reporters, i.e., “handout journalism”, a term of art in journalism. Moreover, what was the purpose for the Dinko Sakic trial? Was it meant as a Stalinist-Communist or Joseph McCarthy type of “show trial” wherein Croatia would be purged of the taint of the Ustasha genocide against Orthodox Serbs, where Croatia would be rehabilitated for its “excesses” and “misdeeds” during the Ustasha period so that Croatia would be rendered civilized and worthy of membership in NATO and the so-called West? By a show trial of Sakic, would the taint of Ustasha genocide be attenuated to the point where Croatia was now a model democracy in the New World Order?
Absurdly, the U.S. government had been instrumental in allowing Dinko Sakic, Ante Pavelic, Andrija Artukovic, and the other Ustasha leaders to flee to the banana republics in South America in the period following the war. In a top secret report of the U.S. Counter Intelligence Corps of April 10, 1950 entitled “History of the Rat Line”, the CIC escape route for the Ustasha leaders were detailed. A U.S. Intelligence operative described how he “was able to recruit the services of a Croatian Roman Catholic priest, Father [Krunoslav] Dragonovic … [who] by this time developed several clandestine channels to … South American countries.” Roman Catholic relief organizations based in the U.S. and Roman Catholic priests at the Vatican created forged and fraudulent documents, provided funds, Vatican housing, and travel arrangements to South America. Andrija Artukovic would settle in California with his family and lead a normal life for much of this period, being able to live out the “American dream” before his alleged war crimes were exposed and he was deported to Yugoslavia which extradited him to stand trial for war crimes. Many of the other Ustasha and other Nazi leaders would be allowed to escape to South America by routes organized by the U.S. In a sudden about-face, the U.S. exposed alleged war criminals which it had allowed to escape trial and punishment initially. Similarly, the U.S. escaped liability or any censure for complicity in the alleged crimes of Chilean banana republic dictator Augusto Pinochet. What role did the U.S. government, particularly the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), play in installing puppet Pinochet in power in Chile?
In The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress (1905), George Santayana warned that human progress depended on learning from the experiences of history and that when the past is forgotten, that forgotten past or experience is repeated, there is “consecutiveness” and “persistence” of memory but no adaptive learning. For true progress, there had to be “plasticity” and “readaption” to experience. In the chapter “Flux and Constancy in Human Nature”, Santayana stated: ”Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute… no direction is set for possible improvement. When experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it… This is the condition of children and barbarians, in whom instinct has learned nothing from experience.” Is it possible to truly learn from the past? Is adaptive learning from experience and history even possible at all?
With the Serbian population of Krajina and Croatia ‘eliminated without trace’, all that remains is to rewrite the history. It is as if the Serbian population never even existed. The Serbian population was condemned to repeat the past.
Within a span of fifty years, the Serbian population of Krajina was condemned to repeat the genocide of the NDH regime, to repeat the past. What Adolf Hitler, Ante Pavelic, Josip Broz Tito, and the Ottoman Turks could not do, the US government and media were able to accomplish: The total and complete destruction, displacement, and elimination of the Krajina Serbian Orthodox population. Waging constant war for over 500 years against the Ottoman Turkish occupation had made the Serbian people strong and vibrant. In only 50 years under the Communist dictatorship of Josip Broz Tito, the Serbian people faced extinction and annihilation, were divided and moribund as an ethnic community. The Serbian population of Krajina, in the attack planned and initiated by the US government and media, was “eliminated without trace.”