By Jim Walker | 22 December 2005
The propaganda by the Christian churches in regard to their role during WWII in Fascist Italy, Yugoslavia, and Nazi Germany has so conditioned their believers that most of them believe that Christianity played an honorable role at best, and only a silent role at worst. Yet there seems little recognition that the very framework of the beliefs owned by the Fascists and Nazis came from their Christian upbringing from church, school, and Christian traditions. The entire anti-Jewish and racial sentiments came not from some new philosophy or unique ideology, but rather from centuries of Christian preaching against the Jews, gypsies, and heretics. This comes especially true for European countries, for the Christian practice of crusades, inquisitions and holy wars occurred in their own backyards. Moreover, the wars conducted by Providence, approved by God, appears so often in the Bible, and practiced by Christians throughout the centuries has disciplined Christians to believe that they could engage in offensive war honorably and even worse—morally. One must remember that the Catholic raised and Protestant conditioned Hitler took his cause of war for an expanded Germany and his fight against the Jews, for Providence’s sake, and a fight for the Lord. He appealed to his fellow German Christians to put him in power and he achieved popular support. I find it unimaginable that Hitler, without this religious foundation, could have churches, politicians and citizens electing him into office, much less have acted against the Jews.
Catholic Croatia’s Atrocities
In 1941 Croat Fascists declared an independent Croatia. Italy and Hungary (also a fascist state) joined forces with Hitler for a share of Yugoslavia. Hitler had issued his plan for a partitioned Yugoslavia, granting “Aryan” status to an independent Croatia under the Catholic Ante Pavelic. This resulted in a campaign of terror and extermination conducted by the Ustashe of Croatia against two million Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and Communists between 1941 and 1945 (Note that the Croats were Roman Catholics, the Serbs were Orthodox Christians). According to Cornwell, “Pavelic’s onslaught against the Orthodox Serbs remains one of the most appalling civilian massacres known to history.”
From the outset, Pope Pius XII and the Vatican knew of the racist and anti-Semitic statements made by the Croats even as the Pope met with Pavelic and bestowed his papal blessing. Not only did the Croatian Catholic clergy know the details of the massacre of the Serbs and the virtual elimination of the Jews and Gypsies but many of the priests took a leading role! Monks and priests worked as executioners in hastily set up concentration camps where they massacred Serbs. These killings had gotten so brutal that even the Nazis protested against them. By the most reliable reckoning, the Catholic fascists massacred 487,000 Orthodox Serbs and 27,000 Gypsies between 1941 and 1945 in the independent State of Croatia. In addition, approximately 30,000 of the 45,000 Jews died in the slaughter.
"The Ustashi movement, established in 1929, found its ideological roots in the mid-19 century chauvinistic Roman-Catholic and Serbophobic ideologist Ante Starchevic".
From the History of WWII: A Genocide in Nazi Croatia https://t.co/9dMa1tVm84 via @ChurchAndStateN
— Church and State (@ChurchAndStateN) November 24, 2022
At no time did the Vatican make an attempt to halt the forced conversions, appropriation of Orthodox property, or the mass killings. Croat priests had not only sympathized with the fascist massacres but took part in them. According to Cornwell, “Priests, invariably Franciscans, took a leading part in the massacres. Many went around routinely armed and performed their murderous acts with zeal. A father Bozidar Bralow, known for the machine gun that was his constant companion, was accused of performing a dance around the bodies of 180 massacred Serbs at Alipasin-Most.” Individual Franciscans killed, set fire to homes, sacked villages, and laid waste the Bosnian countryside at the head of Ustashe bands. In September of 1941, an Italian reporter wrote of a Franciscan he had witnessed south of Banja Luka urging on a band of Ustashe with his crucifix.” In the Foreign Ministry archive in Rome there sits a photographic record of atrocities: of women with breasts cut off, gouged eyes, genitals mutilated; and the instruments of butchery: knives, axes, meat hooks. [Cornwell, pp. 253-254] Not only priests, but even many nuns sympathized to the movement. Some of these nuns marched in military parades behind soldiers with their arms raised in the fascist salute.
From the very beginning the Catholic clergy worked in collaboration with the Ustashe. Archbishop Stepinac got appointed spiritual leader of the Ustashe by the Vatican in 1942. Stepinac, with ten of his clergy held a place in the Ustashe parliament. Priests served as police chiefs and officers of in the personal bodyguards of Pavelic. There occurred frequent BBC broadcasts on Croatia of which a February 16, 1942 typical report stated: “The worst atrocities are being committed in the environs of the archbishop of Zagreb [Stepinac]. The blood of brother is flowing in streams. The Orthodox are being forcibly converted to Catholicism and we do not hear the archbishop’s voice preaching revolt. Instead it is reported that he is taking part in Nazi and Fascist parades.” [Cornwell, p.256] The French cardinal Eugene Tisserant, a Slavonic expert, told a Croat representative on March 6, 1942, “that it is the Franciscans themselves, as for example Father Simic of Knin, who have taken part in attacks against the Orthodox populations so as to destroy the Orthodox Church in banja Luka….” [Cornwell, p. 259]
Even though petitions against the Catholics and their massacres got sent to Pius XII, not once did Pacelli, the “infallible” Pope, ever show anything but benevolence toward the leaders of the Pavelic regime. His silence on the matter matched his silence about his knowledge of Auschwitz.
To this day, there occurs ethnic cleansing, outbreaks of war and intense bitter feelings between Croats and Serbs. The religious organizations in the area must bear the major responsibility for these intolerances, atrocities and wars.
Croatia’s Jasenovac Concentration Camp: a Hidden WWII Horror
Ante Pavelić – Hitler’s Forgotten Ally
The Ustaša Genocide Against Serbs – Short History Documentary
Reconsidering the Catholic Church and the Holocaust
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