“SMITHSONIAN” ODBIO OBJAVITI REAGIRANJE NAŠE UDRUGE NA TEKST ERIN BLAKEMORE O JASENOVCU

(Objavio portal Dragovoljac)

27. siječnja ove godine online časopis američkog muzeja i istraživačkog centra Smithsonian je objavio tekst američke novinarke Erin Blakemore pod naslovom “Why Croatian Jews Boycotted This Year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day” u kojemu je iznesen čitav niz iskrivljenih i lažnih povijesnih podataka. U spomenutom tekstu autorica je također navela veći broj netočnih podataka koje je s lakoćom mogla provjeriti pretragom na Internetu, uključujući i pogrešan spol predsjednice RH Kolinde Grabar-Kitarović koja je u navedenom tekst postala muško.

S obzirom da od strane hrvatske diplomacije, prvenstveno Ministarstva vanjskih poslova i hrvatskog veleposlanstva u Washingtonu, ali i Ureda predsjednice, nitko nije reagirao, naša udruga poslala je 6. veljače uredništvu časopisa Smithsonian reagiranje sa zahtjevom da ono bude objavljeno. Uredništvo tog časopisa kontaktirao je na naš zahtjev i američki odvjetnik hrvatskog podrijetla, ujedno i član naše udruge. Uredništvo Smithsoniana objavilo je 10. veljače dva ispravka u tekstu, među kojima i onaj vezan uz spol predsjednice RH, no ignoriralo je ostale netočne podatke na koje smo ih upozorili. 23. veljače Cynthia Williams obavijestila nas je emailom da “Smithsonian podržava rad u prepravljenom obliku” implicirajući time da naše reagiranje neće biti objavljeno. S obzirom na činjenicu da hrvatska diplomacija i dalje šuti naše reagiranje na engleskom jeziku objavljujemo ovdje, a poslali smo ga emailom i Ministarstvu vanjskih poslova RH, hrvatskom veleposlanstvu u Washingtonu i Uredu predsjednice RH. Prijevod našeg reagiranja na hrvatski jezik dostupan je ovdje.

To Whom It May Concern,

On January the 27th, 2017, your website Smithsonian.com published an article by journalist Erin Blakemore titled „Why Croatian Jews Boycotted This Year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day“. Considering that the aforementioned article was filled with historically incorrect information about a theme that members of our association professionally work upon we request that your website publishes our reply below (also attached).

With respect,

Blanka Matkovic and dr. Peter Anthony Ercegovac.

 

On January the 27th, 2017, your website Smithsonian.com published an article by journalist Erin Blakemore titled «Why Croatian Jews Boycotted This Year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day». Under the even more bombastic secondary title «As neo-Nazism grows in Croatia, the country is at a crossroads between denial and reality» the author published a series of historically incorrect information even though in one thing she proved to be correct: Croatia truly does lie at the crossroads between denial and truth; nonetheless, this was done not in the way that the author had intended to demonstrate in her text. Already in the notations placed under the photographs taken from Wikipedia, Blakemore highlighted that Jasenovac (which by the way is a settlement in the lowlands of Croatia where the work camp was placed during World War Two) was a place where tens of thousands of Jews were killed. This is a falsification which the author could have simply verified by looking at the official website of the Jasenovac Memorial Centre where the official number states that 13 116 Jews were killed[i]. The author also published another falsehood claiming that at Jasenovac all up 99 000 Jews, Serbs, Gypsies and other non-Catholics were murdered. On the previously mentioned website the official numbers of victims upon the list of those killed was established all up at 83 145, amongst them 4 255 Croats and members of other «Catholic» minorities. From this, one can conclude that the author maliciouslly tried to paint Jasenovac as a place whereby Catholics murdered non-Catholics, as such her approach can at best be described as being religiously discriminatory.

The manipulation of the number of Jasenovac victims started immediately after the end of the Second World War and served as the most important means of exaggerating the number of war victims in general. On 26 May 1945 Tito suggested that 1,685,000 people were killed during the Second World War in Yugoslavia.[ii] However, it is not clear on which statistics this estimation was based as there had been no population census held after 1931 and the last battle of the Second World War in Yugoslavia took place on 27 or 28 May 1945 in the Bosnian town of Odžak.[iii] Nevertheless, Tito repeated the number in July 1945 when he stated that ‘during the four years we have lost one million and seven hundred thousand of our citizens’.[iv]

Tito’s statement needed scientific confirmation, but the prominent demographer Professor Dolfe Vogelnik and his assistant Alojz Debevec refused this assignment since there was no new data on which they could base their calculations. Instead, they decided to pass the task over to Vladeta Vučković, at that time a mathematics student, who was working at the Bureau of Statistics in Belgrade. He was given two weeks to calculate the total figure for all victims with the instruction that the number ‘must be impressive, but scientifically-statistically based’.[v] Furthermore, as Vučković emphasised, ‘either out of ignorance or in order to deceive, the people of the regime turned demographic losses into actual victims, which were according to all scientific investigations slightly more than a million.’[vi]

That number of one million people was supposed to include also those killed by Communist forces.[vii] Nevertheless, not this number rather the number of over 1,700,000 war victims was presented by the Yugoslav representative Edvard Kardelj at the Paris Peace Conference in 1946, the same year when the first official victims’ list was prepared by the Commission for War Damage, and it remained the official number of war victims until the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

However, based on the number of Yugoslav war victims of one million, provided by the USA government in 1954, Germany refused to pay reparations for 1,700,000 victims.[viii] Therefore, the Yugoslav authorities were forced to conduct new research to provide more accurate data. The list of victims was finally completed in 1964, but the result was disappointing since the total number was indeed approximately one million, including 597,323 victims of the so-called ‘fascist terror’. According to the same list, approximately 60,000 people died, or were killed, in the Croatian camps of Jasenovac and Stara Gradiška together, where, as the Yugoslav authorities had previously claimed, at least 700,000 people were murdered.[ix]

The first, but unofficial excavations in the Jasenovac area were conducted by the municipal committee of former members of the Yugoslav Army from Bosanska Dubica in 1961 at Gradina, near Jasenovac. They found three mass graves and identified 17 human skulls in one of them, but failed to specify the exact number of bones found in the other two. Based on this finding, they counted 120 more undiscovered graves and concluded that the number of victims in Gradina alone should be 350,800.[x]

Official forensic investigations, conducted in 1964 in Jasenovac, were supposed to prove huge numbers of victims at Jasenovac, and Yugoslav war victims in general, but were interrupted. After investigating 130 locations only seven mass graves, which held a total of 284 human remains, had been found. However, it is important to emphasise that the report, signed by Dr Alojz Šercelj, stated that ‘a large amount of objects shows that the victims were brought directly to the bridge where the executions took place and they were not previously being held in the camp. On this he is particularly keen to indicate the presence of knives, rings, coins, etc.’[xi] Therefore, the remains found did not belong to the prisoners from the Jasenovac camp, but probably to refugees, possibly Croatian soldiers and civilians who, fearing for their lives, fled the country in May 1945, but were surrendered to the Yugoslav Army by the Allies. The available data and the testimonials encouraged the on-going debate among Croatian historians that this camp continued to exist after the end of the Second World War and it could be a place where communist executions of Croatian POWs took place in 1945 and later. Documents found in the State Archive in Sisak and used for the first time in my published paper ‘Postwar Concentration camp Jasenovac: Witness Testimonies and Newer Archival Sources’ prove that this camp did indeed exist between 1945 and 1948, and possibly longer.[xii]

The number of war victims, especially those who died in Jasenovac, has continued to serve as an important part of anti-Croatian propaganda after the end of the Homeland War in 1995. The approximate number of Jasenovac victims, especially those killed on that location after May 1945 remains unknown. New excavations that might reveal more details related to the nature of victims have not been conducted and the only anthropological data are those from 1964.

In the past two years the researchers Nikola Banić and M. Koić compared data of the Jasenovac victims’ list from the Jasenovac Memorial Centre site with other data bases, including that of Yad Vashem. The results of their research suggest that numerous individuals amongst the 83 145 people who had supposedly lost their lives at Jasenovac had in fact not been killed at Jasenovac rather were killed at other locations inside or outside the territories of the former Yugoslavia. Moreover, they proved that many individuals had not even died during the Second World War but in fact had lived long lives after these events and their eyewitness accounts about their experiences during the Second World War can be found on YouTube. This fund of research done by independent experts demonstrated not only that the number of victims mentioned by Erin Blakemore to be incorrect but also that the number officially listed by the Jasenovac Memorial Centre site as incorrect.

Despite the facts that the aforementioned authors have published some 40 works with a wealth of scientific notations that support their arguments the former Director of the Jasenovac Memorial Centre Nataša Jovičić, as well as the current temporary Director Ivo Pejaković, have failed to provide any reasonable explanation for this discrepancy.  They also ignored the findings presented in the paper ‘Postwar Concentration camp Jasenovac: Witness Testimonies and Newer Archival Sources’ (published in December 2014) despite being asked to update their data. According to them, there are no documents or witnesses who can confirm that POWs were indeed kept in the Jasenovac camp. The buildings of the former Ustasha camp were in ruins, rendering them completely unusable for prisoner accommodation. The group of about 600 prisoners, known as the ‘Sisak Forced Labour Institution – Jasenovac Detail’, was brought from the ‘Sisak Forced Labour Institution’ to Jasenovac and kept there from the autumn 1945 until the autumn 1947. There were no killings in Jasenovac and the columns of prisoners-of-war returning from Bleiburg did not pass through or stay in Jasenovac.[xiii] However, all the documents found in the State Archive in Sisak, supported by the documents from the Croatian State Archives in Zagreb, confirm just the opposite – that the POW camp Jasenovac did indeed exist in the former Yugoslavia at least until 1948 and possibly longer.[xiv]  What is important to mention here is the problem of victims of the post-war camp Jasenovac. According to documents of the State Commission for the Determination of Crimes Committed by Occupiers and their Collaborators, somewhere between 6 May 1945 and 31 May 1946 two police officers of the former NDH – Josip Batarelo and Marko Radić – were executed in Jasenovac.[xv]  Both names are listed as the ‘victims of fascist terror’. A source for the first one was a book published in Yugoslavia in 1974 and for the second one the list of victims from 1964.[xvi] Not only were the archival sources not used as evidence, but the Jasenovac Memorial Centre Site keeps ignoring them once documents like these are presented to the public. If the victims of the post-war camp Jasenovac are continued to be added to the list of those killed in that camp before May 1945, it is not possible to say how many of them actually died in Jasenovac during the Second World War.

This example demonstrates how far Croatian society, including official politics, is from coming to terms with the past, particularly crimes committed by the Communist regime. Silence of the institutions responsible for researching this topic opens more space for further manipulations. Croatia truly is at the crossroads but not the one that the author Erin Blakemore is trying to place her upon. The crossroads upon which Croatia finds herself is tied to her being allowed to deal with her communist past which was officially written by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia with the intent of manipulating primary data, destroying original documentation and inventing motives for their own narratives, i.e., political goals.

In her own way Erin Blakemore has continued with this practice of the old communist dictatorial regime and has made an incredible series of beginners errors:

  1. Firstly, the author did not even attempt to confirm data, even using the most simplistic means possible via using Wikipedia because if she had then she would have quickly realised that the army salute Za Dom Spremni (For our home we are prepared) is an old Croatian army salute first recorded in the 17th Instead of this Blakemore has hurriedly and without argument branded Croats as neo-fascists and, even worse than this, Holocaust deniers despite the wealth of historical documentation of the numerous Croats who saved the lives of Jews at the risk to their own lives.
  2. In one part of her text the author highlighted the following: “While Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, the country’s fourth president, has issued a statement that declared the Ustaša a criminal regime, he was photographed holding the regime’s flag in November“, suggesting that the historic Croatian flag that has its chequerboard heraldic symbol commenncing with a white square is a fascist symbol. Furthermore any person with a simplistic knowledge of contemporary Croatian politics would know tha Kolinda Grabar Kitarović is not a HE but a SHE. Besides this anyone who has at least once looked at postcards of Zagreb would notice that the historic St Mark’s Catholic Church in the Old Town of the Croatian capital has such an heraldic symbol on its roof. A symbol placed there in 1878 with the white so-called «fascist» square being placed first some forty plus years before the emergence of fascism and Nazism in Europe. What we see here is the coat of arms of Croatia in its original form that the Croatian people have held so dear to their hearts for centuries. Yes, centuries prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. All these facts can readily be found on the internet using a basic search mode.
  3. In the final part of the text the author highlights the fact that in Croatia there live around 2000 Jews. Highlighting again that the majority of Erin Blakemore’s text deals in unfounded and unconfirmed estimations and this final estimation for its research value is even more shameful, as according to the 2011 Croatian Census the exact amount of Jews living in Croatia numbers 509 people. Even this information is available on Wikipedia.[xvii]

Considering the lack of any academic arguments and an obvious lack of basic knowledge of historical facts Blakemore concludes that “revisionism is a chance to find strong heroes and a triumphant past for a nation that has often been buffeted by war, geopolitics and social upheaval, but it also white washes history.” Instead of answering question the author has posed some serious problems in the truthfulness of her text hence we conclude that our reply with the words of renown American historian James McPherson who said „revision is the lifeblood of historical scholarship. History is a continuing dialogue between the present and the past. Interpretations of the past are subject to change in response to new evidence, new questions asked of the evidence, new perspectives gained by the passage of time. There is no single, eternal, and immutable “truth” about past events and their meaning. The unending quest of historians for understanding the past—that is, “revisionism”—is what makes history vital and meaningful. (…) Without revisionist historians who have done research in new sources and asked new and nuanced questions, we would remain mired in one or another of these stereotypes.“[xviii] Yes, we would remain mired in one or another stereotype just like Erin Blakemore has found herself mired in her stereotypes. We ask for what purpose and for whose purpose does such a quagmire serve so well?

 

Blanka Matkovic and dr. Peter Anthony Ercegovac

 

[i] http://www.jusp-jasenovac.hr/Default.aspx?sid=6711

[ii] Barry M. Lituchy, Jasenovac and the Holocaust in Yugoslavia (New York, 2006), p. 3.

[iii] Stipo Pilić and Blanka Matković, ‘Bitka za Odžak: Rat je završio dvadeset dana kasnije’, Bosna Franciscana, No. 37 (2012), pp. 109-138.

[iv] Josip Broz Tito, Govori i članci, Knjiga 1 (Zagreb, 1959), pp. 362-3.

[v] Bogoljub Kočović, Sahrana jednog mita. Žrtve Drugog svetskog rata u Jugoslaviji (Beograd, 2005), pp. xxi-xxiv. Vladeta Vučković, ‘Sahrana jednog mita’, Naša Reč, No. 368 (1985).

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Paul Mayers and Arthur Campbell, The Population of Yugoslavia (Washington D.C., 1954), p. 23.

[ix] Entire list was published in: Meho Visočak and Bejdo Sobica, Žrtve rata prema podacima Statističkog zavoda Jugoslavije (Zurich – Sarajevo, 1998).

[x] Željko Krušelj, ‘Kako je Živanović 284 kostura pretvorio u 700.000 žrtava’, Vjesnik, 23 April 2005.

[xi] Croatian State Archives, f. 1241, Republički odbor Saveza udruženja boraca Narodnooslobodilačkog rata Hrvatske, kut.174, Izvještaj antropologa.

[xii] Stipo Pilić and Blanka Matković, ‘Poslijeratni zarobljenički logor Jasenovac prema svjedočanstvima i novim arhivskim izvorima’, Radovi, No. 56 (2014), pp. 323-408.

[xiii] Memorial Site Jasenovac – FAQ.

Available at http://www.jusp-jasenovac.hr/Default.aspx?sid=7619 (15 May 2015).

[xiv] Pilić and Matković, ‘Poslijeratni zarobljenički logor Jasenovac’, pp. 323-408.

[xv] Croatian State Archives, f. 306, ZKRZ, kut. 379, series Zh 28326 and 28327.

[xvi] Marinko Perić, Sinj i Cetinska krajina u borbi za slobodu (Sinj, 1974), p. 136. Jelka Smreka and Đorđe Mihovilović, Poimenični popis žrtava koncentracijskoga logora Jasenovac 1941 – 1945 (Jasenovac, 2007), pp. 175, 1361.

[xvii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Croatia

[xviii] https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/september-2003/revisionist-historians

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