German intelligentsia seems to be well underway in revising the Holocaust and could be a stone-throw away from legalizing Hitler himself if more doctoral dissertations, like a recent one that minimizes Croat Nazi Ustasa role, keep appearing.
By M. Bozinovich
A doctoral dissertation by Alexander Korb at the Humboldt-University in Berlin was recently awarded the highest summa cum laude rating by the reviewing professors but the disturbing impact of this event is that the honors that the 3 professors have bestowed on Korb are for his work, which in essence, downgrades Croatian Nazi Ustasa role in the Holocaust from that of a genocide to, as Korb terms it, “violence” against Serbs, Jews and Roma.
“There is no evidence, however, that points that the Croatian government, in its rise to power, was planning mass murder [of Serbs],” declares Korb
[“Nichts deutet indes darauf hin, dass die die kroatische Regierung bei ihrem Machtantritt Massenmorde plante.” page 114]
Instead, writes Korb “Jews and Roma were placed under special racist law, while the largest minority Serbs were to be either assimilated or to be put under some kind of immigration law.”
[“Juden und Roma wurden unter rassistisches Sonderrecht gestellt, während die Serben als größte Minderheit entweder assimiliert oder unter eine Art Fremdenrecht gestellt werden sollten.” page 114]
The “violence” against Serbs, declares Korb, was part of the government Croatian campaign to satisfy public insecurity while seizing on the sense of rebirth of Croatia.
“Through them, the unity of nation, people and community, made the rebirth of Croatia. Croatian independence euphorized a large part of the population … The wave of national enthusiasm was accompanied by a high degree of social insecurity, as illustrated by the high number of suicides in the weeks following the takeover,” writes Korb.
[“Dutch sie sollte die Einheit von Nation, Volk und Gemeinschaft, die Wiedergeburt Kroatiens erfolgen. Die kroatische Unabhängigkeit euphorisierte einen großen Teil der Bevölkerung…Die Welle nationaler Begeisterung war begleitet von einem hohen Grad gesellschaftlicher Verunsicherung, wie die hohe Zahl von Selbstmorden in den Wochen nach der Machtübernahme illustriert.” page 115]
In fact, says Korb, any violence against Serbs was “from the local context, and not just disposed of the Croatian leadership in Zagreb were, as is often claimed.”
[Dies ist ein wichtiger Beleg, wie stark solche Gewaltpraxen und -formen (also nicht die Gewalt an sich) aus dem lokalen Kontext entstanden, und eben nicht von der kroatischen Führung in Zagreb angeordnet wurden, wie oft behauptet wird. Die Ustaša-Führung sah sich eher gezwungen, das Treiben der Milizen zu tolerieren.” page 252]
In other words, Korb says that violence against Serbs, if it was any, was something that the Croat Nazi Ustasa regime just had to tolerate because the local Croatian customs required that Croat brigands must retaliate against violent activities of Serbs.
As a result, Korb portrays an aggregate picture in which Croatian organized genocide against the Serbs did not exist and that any violence against the Serbs was a diffused event that was beyond the control of the Croatian Ustasa government. Throughout the paper, Korb rings this thesis in various ways, with repetitive invective that Croatian atrocities were just “retaliation acts” [page 125], collateral reaction as various Ustasa groups battled for power [page 126], that the “eruption of violence grew out of concern circumstances” [page 204], that in 1942 violence against Serbs was perpetrated because Croats were “fighting for food” [page 243], even plans by Croats to build a national park at Plitvice was the cause for attacks on Serbs [page 163].
But wait! There is more…
Never mind that Korb has redefined the Croatian genocide against the Serbs as simple “diffused” violence, even the violence itself was the product of Serbs themselves whose action incited such responses because of Serbian life of “mythology” and “paranoia” that threatened Croatia with a “civil war and made Croats live in fear.
“The diffuse civil war violence at the local level in this context of a confused and persistent struggle for power has allowed the perpetrators to see meaning in such [violent] deeds. The Ustasa perpetrators were afraid of their Serbian opponents, who fed [the fear] on mythical stories, paranoia in the civil war and very real fears. Blatant violence could possibly also serve to overcome this fear. Therefore the power of the perpetrator [Ustasa] was scratched into the body of the prisoner or enrolled,” concludes Korb.
[“Die diffuse Bürgerkriegsgewalt auf lokaler Ebene im Kontext eines konfusen und anhaltenden Kampfes um die Macht erlaubte es den Tätern, Sinn in solchen Taten zu sehen. Die Täter der Ustaša hatten Angst vor ihren serbischen Gegnern, die sich aus mythischen Erzählungen, Paranoia im Bürgerkrieg und durchaus realen Befürchtungen speiste. Krasse Gewalt konnte womöglich auch dazu dienen, diese Angst zu besiegen. Deswegen wurde die Macht der Täter in die Körper der Gefangenen eingeritzt oder eingeschrieben.” page 251]
Even the deportation of Serbs, Jews and Roma was part of the response to poverty in Croatia so the Ustasa government saw it necessary to expel these ethnic groups under policy of “deportation of the impoverished people”. [page 131]
After some time, says Korb, the policy of deporting the poor, mostly Serbs, Jews and Roma, was no longer a successful policy in reducing poverty in WWII Croatia so after such policy failed because the deported population refused and was offering resistance, poor Croats had to resort to death camps.
“The resistance of the affected people and problems created by the expulsions radicalized [the Ustasa] and… left them to seek other solutions. Massacres and mass murders in camps form the causal chain links that follow failed resettlements,” writes Korb.
[“Der Widerstand der betroffenen Menschen und Probleme, die durch die Vertreibungen entstanden, radikalisierten die Täter jedoch und ließen sie nach anderen „Lösungsmöglichkeiten― suchen. Massaker und Massenmorde in Lagern bilden in der Kausalkette daher Glieder, die auf gescheiterte Umsiedlungen folgen.” page 133]
Germany, says Korb, acted to restrain Croatian haphazard massacres and did not look kindly on mass killings.
“Massacre by the Ustasa militia of Serb civilians in the provinces, however, always came to massive German criticism,” says Korb.
[“Massaker durch die Ustaša-Milizen an serbischer Zivilbevölkerung in den Provinzen stießen hingegen stets auf massive deutsche Kritik.” page 296]
… and what about the Croatian extermination camp in Jasenovac?
Well, Korb is unequivocal by saying that only “up to 70,000 people were killed in Jasenovac alone” and that contemporary research shows this, [“70.000 Menschen allein in Jasenovac getötet wurden.” page 297] and many of these Serbs and Jews died in Jasenovac not because Croats killed them but because of shortage of food.
What’s more, notes Korb, “Some reports even mentioned that in Jasenovac ethnic German prisoners suffer from Jewish Kapos and their chiefs”(!) and that many expelled Serbs expressed anti-Semitism because Jews were treated nice by Croats while Serbs were not.
[In manchen Berichten wird gar angesprochen, dass in Jasenovac volksdeutsche Häftlinge unter jüdischen Kapos und ihren Chefs von der Ustaša zu leiden hätten.” page 45]
Of course, the research that Korb relies on is exclusively the one that denies genocide against the Serbs as Korb, early on in his work, dismisses the entire evidence of Croatian atrocities as tainted by Serb nationalist-communism.
“In Serbia nationalists exploit the suffering during the Second World War, followed by the Ustasa Serbs, in the press it into a paradigm of a Serbian ordeal. With speech of ‘Serbian-Jewish Holocaust’ is the speech of the alleged victims of both community groups. The media attention that promises the Holocaust, is to serve as an admission ticket,” declares Korb.
[“In Serbien instrumentalisieren Nationalisten das Leid der während des Zweiten Weltkriegs von der Ustaša verfolgten Serben, in dem sie es in ein Paradigma eines serbischen Leidensweges pressen. Von einem „serbisch-jüdischen Holocaust― ist die Rede, von der angeblichen Opfergemeinschaft beider Gruppen.” page 25].
On the other hand, says Korb, some other evidence of Croatian role in the Holocaust that has not been manipulated by Serbian “nationalists” was manipulated or invented by “communists” who wrote “investigation reports, statistics and indictments [that] are all unreliable, extremely general, superficial, and written in a Stalinist ductus”.
We could definitively go on and on about Korb’s work because his 423 pages and 1,365 footnotes represent an impressive compilation of denial of Croatia’s role in the Holocaust. As is, though, Korb’s work has definitively impressed the professors to whom he was defending his work so much so that the professors issued him a summa cum laude.
Prof. Dr. Jörg Baberowski, Prof. Dr. Kiran Klaus Patel and Prof. Dr. Michael Wildt unanimously voted for the summa cum laude with Baberowski bluntly stating that Korb’s dissertation is a milestone for the future because “Nobody will be able in the future to write about this topic in the usual manner”.
We are now a stone-throw away from a declaration by the German intelligencia that Hitler was actually, the good guy.
* I am deeply indebted to Vladimir Umeljic whose expertise in German and a meticulous research of Korb’s work helped put this text together. You can read Korb’s dissertation here.