Sime Letina


Committed Against the Croatian People

Throughout the 1300 years of their written history, the Croatian people have experienced most imaginable challenges in their perennial struggle for a better life and national independence. They witnessed, and were subject to open provocations, ruthless persecutions, theft of land and mass exterminations.  Despite  the ongoing adversities in the last century, they tore down the oppressive chains of domination initiated by a small group of domestic political dreamers who were eagerly supported by the dominant European nations of the time.  Their work planted the seed and helped execute the coming into existence of the first Yugoslavia, the monarchy, and the second Yugoslavia, Tito’s and Moscow’s creation.  Twice they reacted to brutalities of open war and occupation:  the first time in 1941, and the second time in 1990.  In both cases, the majority of the Croatian people firmly asserted in deeds that they wanted and that they attained their independent state.  Excepting a minority opposition which followed its own ideological fallacies, the Croatian people showed a unique resolve against both domestic oppressors and foreign conspirators and invaders. All strata of the society, the intelligentsia, the workers, the peasants, and the students focused only on attaining and preserving the freedom of the nation:  they were not interested in foreign inspired ideologies.

In 1941, the leadership of the Croatian Peasant Party declared itself pro-Yugoslav; however, the overwhelming majority of the peasant members of the party followed the legacy of their assassinated leader Stjepan Radic to actively participate in the process of deposing Belgrade’s domination and to contribute to the creation of a new Croatian state.  The Ustasha movement (meaning The Uprisers) was at the time the only important and viable political organization which postulated clear goals and unambiguously represented the interest of the nation and the majority of its people.  Unlike the state-building Croatian Uprisers, “long before WWII, the Croatian communists operating under the Moscow tutelage, had accepted the idea of a joint state with the Serbs and left the solutions of the Croatian issues….to the Serbs.” (Jubilee Proceedings, Croatian Review, Jure Petričević: A Look at Croatian Future, pp.1-2.) 

In both instances, the Liberation War of 1941 and the Homeland War of 1990, the price of independence was devastating as it involved a confrontation with para-military and military enemies aided by the treasonous allies Italy and Germany. Shortly after the establishment of the Independent State of Croatia in 1941 (NDH) members of the Yugoslav monarchy army, with the help of paramilitary Chetniks and full aid of their Italian allies, began massacring the Catholic and Muslim population; in Derventa, from 11 to 13 April, 1941, 17 Croat civilians, including 5 women, were killed.  On a path from Popovo and Hrasno to Čapljina, they killed 25 and wounded 150 Croats; women and children were among the victims. This was the beginning of the first manifestations of the main goal to oppose the newly established nation.  In addition, Dr. Stevan Moljević, a Serbian lawyer from Banja Luka, one of the main Chetnik ideologues, drafted a plan entitled “Homogenous Serbia”; therein, he presented the Chetnik program on borders, social order, and foreign policy of Greater Serbia in the renewed Yugoslavia.  His plan clearly outlined the intent for mass killings of Croats who embraced their newly independent state.  At that time, Jasenovac did not exist nor did the accusations about “Upriser crimes” which were, in fact, the essential elements of the sophisticated planned propaganda, a tool which continued to be used by both Chetniks and (Communist) partisans when attempting to cover up the crimes they themselves had committed.

At the end of January 1943, Chetniks in Dalmatia, with the help of Tito’s partisans, invaded the villages of Kijevo, Kosor, Maovice, Vrlika, Ružić, Otavice, Gradec and Kričke: 100 Croats were killed and as standard practice, women were raped and children were not spared. A 68-year-old Croat, Niko Blažević was impaled and burned at the stake.  In Otavice, the uncle of a well-known sculptor Ivan Meštrović, Ilija Meštrović, was thrown into a burning house with his wife.  In early 1943, Chetniks set fire to houses in several villages around Imotski, raped minors and elderly women alike and slaughtered 32 Croats.  This brutal behavior was planned and executed by the aggressors throughout the entire length of the war.

Partisan - Communist Crimes

In light of the non-aggression pact treaty of 1939 between Hitler and Stalin, the entry of German troops into Yugoslavia on April 6,1941 did not alarm or disturb the Yugoslav Communists.  While Moscow remained silent, so did they.  Two months later, on June 22, 1941, as Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, members of the Yugoslav Communist Party led by Josip Broz Tito, at Stalin's urging, started the so-called “uprising against foreign occupiers,” and called it an anti-fascist uprising. In fact, this was a Yugoslav Communist uprising against the Independent State of Croatia and the Croatian people who supported the new nation.

Following the example of Stalin, Tito and the ideologue members of his partisan movement publicly emphasized the term ‘anti-fascism’ as a means of attracting new volunteers to their movement.  Although they used tactics and behaved worse than the fascists themselves, they used the term “anti fascist” to smear their ideological opponents and enemies, particularly the supporters of the new Croatian state.  The partisan movement and the so-called Anti Fascist Liberation Council (AVNOJ) had nothing to do with anti-fascism.  Their real goal was to establish a Communist, anti-democratic Yugoslavia.  Following the victory in 1945 which lasted through 1990, members of the Communist Party led by Tito did not call themselves anti-fascist but, plainly, Communists.  Only in the late 1980s, as the need arose, they revived the term anti-fascism and renamed their party from The League of Communists of Croatia (SKH) to Party of Democratic Change, and thereafter, the Social Democratic Party of Croatia.  It is obvious that the concept of anti-fascism they used was never true and democratic anti-fascism.  Since its inception, this process of deceit has been, simply stated, characterized by the Yugoslav Communist terror; the myth was destroyed by Croatians in 1990.  Tito's and Milosevic's goal to create a Greater Serbia was destroyed.

Throughout WWII Tito's partisans did not engage the armed forces of the State of Croatia in open armed confrontations.  Instead, like the Chetniks, they invaded unprotected Croatian villages and forced unarmed people to cooperate. Locals who resisted were executed on the spot and their property was looted.  Shocking news about partisan massacres confirmed these tactics which often caused groups of terrified refugees to flee such open practice of genocide and seek shelter and protection in the cities.  All these crimes clearly and consistently followed the methods of terrorist Bolsheviks.  The population of the capital Zagreb almost tripled with refugees arriving primarily from the eastern and southern regions of the country.  During the last months of the war, the situation in the war theater was changing from day to day.  It was obvious that Germany would lose the war, and the allied meeting in Yalta made it clear that the Croatian state would be incorporated into Yugoslavia and thus, it would cease to exist as a nation.

In view of such a bleak future, Croatia did not have much choice.  The head of the state and the Croatian state government faced the alternatives of fighting to the point of self-destruction or to retreat to the West and hand over the fate of the army and the people to the victors.  One of the key consultation figures in the events of the time was the Archbishop of Zagreb, Croatian Prelate Dr. A. Stepinac.  The Head of State, Ante Pavelic, realized that regardless of future developments, an individual, or a group of individuals should be delegated the responsibility to hand over power to the victors.  He selected Dr. A Stepinac, Archbishop of Zagreb for the task, who in turn recommended Dr. Vlatko Maček to take this responsibility. Maček declined “probably aware that the Yugoslav Communists would execute him for such a role”. 

Croatian Withdrawal

By the decision of the Croatian state government on May 6, 1945, the exodus from Zagreb began.  Several hundred thousand Croatian soldiers, government officials and civilians started a retreat toward Austria via Slovenia with an understanding that leaving the homeland would prevent mass Communist reprisals.  The plan was to surrender to the Allied Forces in Austria.

Among the retreating masses there was a group of military and civilian refugees from Montenegro, supporters of Dr. Sekula Drljević, a fighter for a free and independent Montenegro and a former political associate of Stjepan Radić.  The message of Dr. Drljević to the Montenegrin army dated March 1945 reads as follows: “You have been given passage through the territory of the Independent State of Croatia in a war greater than anything anyone has ever experienced.  You are given the opportunity to feel the warmth and friendship of the Croatian people toward the Montenegrin people and their aspirations for a free state. You will be in combat side-by-side with the Croatian army and you will have the opportunity to compete with Croatian patriots in a joint fight against a common enemy.”  (Jubilee Proceedings, Croatian Review, Daniel Crljen: Jubilee of Genocide: The Cause of New Insults, p.310).

Dr. Sekula Drljević and his wife were killed by Chetniks during the retreat.  In his book The Agony and the Collapse of the Independent State of Croatia, Milan Basta calls Dr. Drljević a traitor and rejoices in his death: “Sekula Drljević managed to escape across the border. He took refuge in a hospital in Klagenfurt where he was overtaken by Chetnik revenge and slaughtered in that hospital together with his wife” (, html; The Truth About Bleiburg).  Crljen referred to most of Basta’s book as imagination: “in this odious confusion, most of what Basta says, is a pure lie” (ibid).

On the way through Slovenia toward Austria, the Croatians faced several groups of Slovenian and Bulgarian partisans.  To avoid bloodshed and suffering of civilians, representatives of the Croatian army negotiated for a peaceful passage through Slovenia.  Prof. Crljen represented the Croatian army in the field while Emilija Gabinec, Secretary of the Celje District People’s Liberation Committee represented the opposition team of three.  Quoting Prof. Crljen: “The Command of the Croatian Armed Forces requests a free of conflict passage through Slovenia to the Austrian border for all our units with their complete weapons, as well as the civilian population which is retreating with the army.  You must provide us a guarantee that your military detachments will not attack us which at this point is in your own interest as well.  You are aware that Celje is under our control today.  With this agreement, we will continue with our withdrawal; however, if we are attacked by any of your units in the war theater, we will react swiftly, including the imposition of most severe reprisals.  I do not believe that your new government can dare to take on such a responsibility”. (Daniel Crljen, “The Truth About Bleiburg”, a lecture).

Gabinac requested more time to consult with the command in Ljubljana.  The Croatians stated that a command will be given to move forward regardless of the partisan decision.  Gabinac requested 15 minutes after which she returned with a document agreeing to “free passage of the Upriser, Home Guard and Montenegrin military forces in the direction of Frankolovo”.  The document was signed by Generals Servatzy and Metikos on behalf of Croatians, Dr. Krivokapić on behalf of the Montenegrins and Emilija Gabinec on behalf of the partisans.  (Crljen pointed out that he handed the original document to Vinko Nikolić to be published in the Croatian Review; that document was stolen from Mrs. Nikolić during her migration from Argentina to Spain).

On the eve of May 14, the first Croatian soldiers and a multitude of civilians arrived to the open fields near the British controlled town of Bleiburg.  According to Prof. Crljen, that same evening a Croatian officer was sent to the British command headquarters and informed the command about intentions of the Croats to surrender to the British forces.  The reply was that the Croatian representatives would be received by General Scott the following day at 10.00 hrs.

In the first part of his book, Prof. Kazimir Katalinić quotes the war diary of the 38th Irish Infantry Brigade dated May 14: “there are two armed groups of Croats, each of about 100,000 men, trying to pass Bulgarians and Yugoslavs and surrender to the British forces.  They want to escape Tito’s regime and they don’t care which country they end up in.  In addition to these two armed groups there are also some half a million civilians (women and children)”. (Part 1, p.46).  Katalinić states that this document was published in the magazine Political Prisoner, The Journal of the Croatian Association of Political Prisoners, vol. IX., No. 83, February 1999, 51.)

Difficult and Arduous Negotiations

The following day the commanders of the retreating Croatian Army, General Ivo Herenčić, General Vjekoslav Servatzy, and Colonel Daniel Crljen, were greeted by General Patrick Scott. The conversations were difficult and painful.  General Hererenčić informed General Scott that the Croatian contingent was proceeding under the orders of Head of State, Dr. Ante Pavelić, with the intent to surrender the Croatian army and civilians and place them under the protection of the British Armed Forces.  General Scott replied: “According to Allied regulations, all enemy units must surrender to those Allied forces they fought against”.  General Herenčić replied that partisans were bandits in the eyes of the Croats.  Scott promptly replied that partisans were British allies.  Prof. Crljen introjected: “We know that there are agreements among the allies about the extradition of soldiers.  However, in this case we are not only dealing with the army but a multitude of civilians which left their country voluntarily with a specific goal of seeking political refugee status.  We expect that kind of protection from the victorious powers of England and United States”.  Herenčić insisted that “our problem is political; there is a multitude of people fleeing Communism, and we ask your political forums to request instructions for our case”.  General Scott firmly refused as follows:  “I have precise orders from General Alexander who received the necessary instructions from Mr. Churchill”.  Scott thereafter insisted that two Croatian representatives would have to talk to two partisan representatives in his presence.  Herenčić and Crljen would be present.

General Scott invited two partisans into the office; one of them was Milan Basta, a Serb from Lika, a Lieutenant Colonel and political commissar, who immediately proceeded to set out the conditions: “As soon as you return to your camp, you must display the white flags and, within one hour, carry out the organized surrender of the entire army. Women and children will be returned home, soldiers are going into captivity and officers, accompanied by us will go to face the war court in Maribor” (From the text by Prof. Crljen).

General Herenčić pointed out the logistical difficulties and suggested a 24-hour process.  Basta categorically refused.  General Scott suggested a two-hour reprieve, but Basta disagreed.  At Crljen’s insistence, Basta did agree that the ultimate time would begin when the Croatian negotiators returned to review the decisions with the Croatian field commanders.  Thus, these fatal conversations ended.  The armaments were turned over to the British who immediately afterwards extradited the multitude to the partisans at Bleiburg. Immediately afterwards followed the first partisan acts of savagery which grew into a planned slaughter.

The Bleiburg Massacre

In the former Yugoslavia, Croatian history was written by enemies of Croatia and Croatian people, namely the Communist regime loyal followers led by J.B. Tito. Under the threat of severe penalties, Croats were not allowed to speak publicly about Bleiburg and partisan-Communist crimes.  A sophisticated propaganda was put in place by the new regime by appointing Yugoslav and Greater Serbian historians who were given a free hand to rewrite history. However, Croatians in exile in the free world worked diligently to preserve the truth about post-WWII events at Bleiburg; books, articles, interviews, and symposia were organized to commemorate the hundreds of thousands of exterminated victims.  Until prohibited in 2022, the yearly commemoration of the Bleiburg victims at the Bleiburg fields drew up to 50,000 visitors joining the commemoration services.

In the book Bleiburg, Causes and Consequences (Vinko Nikolić, Library of the Croatian Review, 1988), cites Nikola Mulanović, a surviving Croatian soldier, longtime political emigrant and author of article entitled : “We were killed by Communists”.  Therein he described the torture and killing of the Croatian prisoners of war after the negotiations failed: “There is a general commotion among the multitude; anticipation energy is felt everywhere.  We move lined up toward the Englishmen....and surrender our weapons: rifles, machine guns, self-propelled guns, by one....  The crowd is enormous.  The English soldiers are standing next to us...providing an escort.  After a few miles, we arrive to an intersection.  This moment will always remain in my memory; as I saw the partisan contingents, I looked for the English but they were gone.  We are speechless and looking at each other:  Is this possible?  We have been betrayed. We have been deceived.... We all realize what horrors await us:  we cannot predict the details, but we know exactly the has been done before. And the horror immediately begun...moving in long columns of humanity...forced to walk, walk, and walk in the direction of Maribor.  The escorting partisan units are changing; tired they leave and fresh new units arrive. And we continue the incessant march. There were people who fell to the ground and could not go any further....  Our escorts simply laughed and told us that those not capable of continuing could sit in the ditch. Many who had enough of suffering sat down.  Forever”. (Bleiburg: Causes and Consequences, Munich, Barcelona, 1988, pp. 122-123.)

In the same volume, in an article entitled  “A Memory of the Croatian Way of the Cross“, a young Croatian woman, Danica K., briefly described the memory of her father's fortunate survival of the death march from Austria to the Romanian border. “I was very young when our father returned from the war which he joined as a home guard from 1941 to 1945. Here is what he told us:  his brother, also a member of the home guard, was executed during the retreat....  He himself survived the process of extradition to the partisans, confiscation of all weapons and then the interminable death marches from which most victims did not survive. After several days, his group was assigned to be executed on site.  At the last moment, a partisan on a horseback halted the execution with a message that another group was scheduled for execution.  They were to continue their forceful march forward.  One group stayed alive and another was executed in its place.  As they continued the march through northern Croatia the tragic scenes repeated themselves: exhaustion, hunger, thirst. They were prohibited from approaching any source of water found along the way; those who disobeyed were shot on the spot without warning.  Marching through the town of Bjelovar, a prisoner spotted his wife and a child in a pram on the street.  He broke away from the column.  A partisan escort opened fire and the man fell dead in front of his family” (p 239-240).

The journal Republika Hrvatska, No. 109, April 10, 1977, cites another surviving Croatian soldier and political emigrant by the name of Mato Šaravanja who described the brutal behavior of Yugoslav partisans toward the prisoners.  Quoting from his book How They Decimated Us: “after a short hike, we arrived at the smaller towns surrounding Bleiburg.  The place was overcrowded with partisan soldiers who were already displaying their true intentions.  Several hundred Croatian soldiers were killed in this field.  We, the survivors, continued to march…there was no rest, no one dared to ask for it…. We crossed the Austrian Croatian border and the looting of anything of value began: gold jewelry, rings, watches, replacement shoes, even uniforms…. There is no rest at all; we move very fast.  Whoever cannot keep up with the pace is executed and left in the ditch with a bullet in the head…. Many fall exhausted and others pick them up to help along the way.  Often, the exhausted victims and those helping are executed by the guards….”

The new escort replacements are mostly a group of Montenegrins and Herzegovian Serbs.  Many are still dressed in their provincial attire, but almost all wear scarves …. Dry mouth cracked by lack of water, covered with a thick layer of dirt from dust in which we move for several days and nights…. We enter Lakenik where we are “greeted” for the first time by the sympathizers of the Tito’s regime.  At the entrance to the village itself, there are men on both sides of the road armed with stakes cursing at us and indiscriminately beating with stakes many in the marching column…. In addition, they harnessed two wagons with large horses and forced them to gallop literally through the column.  Hundreds of exhausted victims fell dead under the carriages…. The escorts are ruthless.  They kill those who delay the pace or stop to relieve themselves and leave them in the ditches along the roadside”. (p 22-55.)

Responsibility of Yugoslav Partisans

Only after the establishment of the Croatian state in 1990, the topic of the Bleiburg events and Bleiburg victims began to be known in Croatia.  Since then, historians, publicists and surviving witnesses produced books, scientific discussions, articles, and publications testifying to the direct responsibility of the Yugoslav partisans and Yugoslav authorities of the time for the committed crimes.  Equally credible testimonies were formulated about the responsibility of the English authorities for the extradition of innocent people and the fate they suffered en masse as a consequence.  In the book Surviving Witnesses, Stanislav Vukorep presented testimonies of 78 witnesses who survived the Bleiburg events and subsequent Way of the Cross death marches.  Therein, the reader learns about the torments and suffering of the few survivors and the torments and executions of many ruthlessly killed without trial by the “partisan victors”.

Prof. Branimir Luksic called the partisan massacres of innocent prisoners the Croatian Holocaust.  “After the end of WWII, partisan communists committed unheard of crimes against Croatian soldiers and civilians, women, children and the elderly, who surrendered to them at Bleiburg.  This Croatian Holocaust, which began on May 14, 15 and 16, 1945, continued with death marches called the Croatian Way of the Cross….  Of the many imaginative and inventive ways of torture that the Communists used against the victims, I will mention only some that are cruel beyond the pure horror.  In May 1945, they forced 4,000 Croatian soldiers and civilians into the air shelter of the Impol factory in Slovenska Bistrica, located 20 km from Maribor, then mined the entrance to the shelter: all victims died of suffocation in horrific agony.  In 1948, the Communists dug out their remains and burned them in furnaces of the same factory.  The entire process, excepting guard supervision, was carried out by prisoners who had been sentenced to death and who were eventually liquidated having completed their work….  At Kočevski Rog, one of the starting locations of the Way of the Cross, between 30,000 and 40,000 people were executed and buried in two pits, without trial. A group of 75 to 90 prominent Communists, under the command of Major Simo Dubajić, who carried out the killing, were appointed by Milka Planinc from the ranks of the 8th Dalmatian Corps partisans.  Before the execution, women were raped. (, 3 October 2011, Branimir Lukšić, The Croatian Way of the Cross and the British Role in It.)  To those who doubt Tito's responsibility for these killings, Luksic said:  There is credible evidence not only that Tito knew, but that he ordered these killings”.

Tito’s responsibility is also emphasized by Professor Kazimir Katalinić:  “It is an indisputable fact – despite all the contrary argumentation presented by Titoists and Yugoslav nostalgics – that Josip Broz Tito is the main culprit for all crimes that took place in Bleiburg and the death marches afterwards.  With these crimes, Tito has been classified not only as a Croatian renegade and traitor, but also as an oppressor of his own people, a criminal who committed genocide at large and genocide against his own people!” (Kazimir Katalinić, From Defeat to Victory…Vol. I, p.53).

To substantitate, Prof. Katalinić cites the testimonies of those who participated in the crime or belonged to the leadership and structure that committed the crime. One of them was Matija Ribičić, a former Head of the Department for the Protection of the People (DPP) of Slovenia.  Ribičić said that the decision to liquidate the prisoners “was probably made at the secret military meeting between Tito and the commanders of the four partisan armies in Zagreb” (Tito ordered the liquidation of Quisling, Vjesnik, Zagreb, 23 May 1994, p.32).

Zdenko Zavadlav, deputy head of the DPP for Maribor area said that “the order came from the top, and it is known where the top was”.  We were told, “Kill the enemies without trial because the revolution is still going on”. ( Jutarnji list, Zagreb, May 25, 2003).

Katalinić also cites a conversation between sculptor Ivan Meštrović and Josip Broz Tito.  Ivan Meštrović, who lived in USA after WWII, visited Yugoslavia in 1959.  Tito himself who hosted him at the Brijuni Islands was asked about the massacres of Croats, especially in the spring and summer of 1945 to which Tito replied: “This could not have been avoided.  Serbs should have been allowed to be satisfied” (Kazimir Katalinić, From Defeat to Victory, History of Croatian Political Emigration, 1945-1990; part I, p.78). Tito himself, during his speech in Ljubljana in May 1945, confirmed his role and responsibility when he said: “We liquidated two hundred thousand bandits, and captured as many more.  The hand of our justice has reached them”.

Milovan Djilas told Encounter newspaper in December 1979 that there were no established courts in Yugoslavia at the time and that the simplest way was to kill those people who had been returned to Yugoslavia by the British and thus, solve the problem… To equate some of the Yugoslav and British guilt for the crime, Djilas told the Daily Telegraph on November 16, 1979: “The British made a terrible mistake by extraditing these people back across the border, just as we made a terrible mistake of executing them all”. It was irresponsible for British to do that”.

The Involvement and Responsibility of the English

In addition to the Yugoslav partisan crimes, the British were directly responsible for the Bleiburg massacres.  English historian Nikolai Tolstoy describes in his work The Minister and the Massacres published in London 1986, how the British fraudulently extradited 200,000 Croatian soldiers and 500,000 civilians who were brutally killed by the partisans.  “After the fraudulent and forced return of the Croatian army and civilians to Tito’s partisans at Bleiburg, death marches followed.  Sick, exhausted, starved and beaten soldiers and civilians were driven by partisan Communists to walk through Yugoslavia from the Austrian to Romanian and Greek borders. Whoever tried to rest or fell down was killed on the spot.” (p.387).

Michael Palaich, an American of Croatian descent, and author of the book For Baka’s Homeland, produced the film “Bleiburg Tragedy” based on British documents and eyewitnesses, which proves the involvement and responsibility of the English in the extradition of innocent Croatian civilians from Bleiburg fields and neighboring towns.  Former member of the British Military Service Nigel Nicholson testified that 200,000 Croatian soldiers and 500,000 civilians had been repatriated from Bleiburg and neighboring towns.  As a participant and eyewitness to the forced surrender, he admitted that the English lied to the Croats when they promised to send them by train to Italy; the Croats understood the tragedy of the deception only when they arrived to Rosenbach where they were met by large partisan contingents. The first reaction was panic; some captives committed suicide and few managed to escape and return to the British controlled zone in Austria. Instead of being granted protection, they were again extradited to the partisans for a known fate of murder. Another witness, Colin Gunner testified that he had personally seen the partisans execute people indiscriminately, including babies in mother’s arms(!).

Palaich also interviewed Gerald Draper, a former public prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials.  Draper testified that both the partisans and the British were to blame for the Bleiburg crimes and could both be charged for war crimes under the international law. One of the most important military documents (SITREP, dated May 1945) states that 200,000 Croatian soldiers and 500,000 civilians were repatriated to Yugoslavia in May of 1945.

General Scott directly stated at the end of the surrender negotiations with three Croatian representatives on May 15, 1945: “I have precise orders from General Alexander who received the necessary instructions from Mr. Churchill”.  The meaning of this statement is much clearer today than at the time of negotiations.  New documents show that the British made the decision to extradite the Croats a full two days before the actual negotiations took place. The decision was made after Harold McMillan, a political advisor to Field Marshal Harold Alexander’s Supreme Allied Command for the Mediterranean Theater, verbally ordered Commander of the 8th Corps Gen. Charles Keightley, in Klagenfurt, the following: “A large part of the anti-Yugoslav troops, with the exception of Chetniks, were to be handed over to the Yugoslavs”.  Field Marshal Alexander was directly subordinate to Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Therefore, the negotiations between General Scott and the Croatian representatives at Bleiburg were a mere farce, a rape of the truth and blatant deceit of the Croatian people.  In civilized nations, such behavior and its consequences is labeled as genocide.

Furthemore, the British knew before the actual repatriations what would happen to the prisoners after the extradition. The British ambassador to the Vatican sent a formal report to his foreign minister, Anthony Eden on May 11, 1945.  One part of the 16-page report reads as follows: “Shortly after the occupation of every town and village, the partisans imposed a dictatorship of the Communist Party.  They started physically eliminating all suspicious persons, or those that seemed suspicious to them” (Hrvatsko Slovo, December 1, 2006).  The ambassador further described in detail the massacres of Croats in Dubrovnik, Metković, Ljubuški, Makarska, Mostar, Široki Brijeg and Sinj.

By extraditing Croatia prisoners of war to Tito’s Yugoslavia, England violated  the Geneva Convention according to section “On the Release of Prisoners of War”  which was signed on July 27, 1929 in Geneva.  The Independent State of Croatia acceded to this convention in a formal, written document dated 20 January 1943. (Marko Sinovčić: NDH in the light of Documents).


Bleiburg is a crown symbol of Yugoslavia, the most that Yugoslavia and its ideology has managed to produce: the physical destruction of one people by another in the name of preserving a fused Yugoslav state created by force.  The Bleiburg genocide exposed the true ideology of Yugoslavia; it also exposed the direct responsibility of the highest levels of the British government for mass extraditions and subsequent closure of pertinent archives for decades to come.

The true number of Croats killed at Bleiburg and in the Way of the Cross death marches is still not fully known. Some investigators are asserting the number of victims at 750,000, others at 500,000.  In his book Silenced Graves and their Victims, Slovenian author Franz Perme concludes that in the first days of May 1945, 189,000 Croats were killed in Slovenia alone, and an additional 144,500 people were executed outside Slovenia in death marches from the Slovenian-Croatian border to the Romanian and Bulgarian borders.  Documents needed to clarify these numbers still lie in sealed government archives controlled by those who do not want the public to know the complete truth.

Although the final number of victims is not known, the crime which can rightly be called genocide, is undisputed.  Today in Croatia, the so-called Croatian anti-fascists are the only ones who deny the genocide.  This small group of people is still trying to disguise Tito in an anti-fascist suit with a five-pointed star on his hat, not realizing that true anti-fascism does not go hand-in-hand with a red, five- pointed star. The revisionists deliberately falsify history believing that their fictional stories will absolve Tito of his responsibility and the responsibility of their parents and grandparents who faithfully followed Tito’s instructions and orders.  Regardless of their public display and glorification of Tito, he will remain on the international list of the world’s ten greatest killers. 

His followers can in no way diminish his and Yugoslav responsibilities for the hundreds of thousands of Croats killed: women and the elderly, Catholic priests, monks and nuns, nurses, teachers, journalists, businessmen, writers and peasants. With Tito’s knowledge and approval, people were thrown alive into pits from which the cry for justice, not revenge, resonates not only with victim’s family members, but with all well-meaning people who care about truth and justice.

Bleiburg must be assessed in the Croatian national consciousness to serve as a pledge for a better Croatian future.  It must not be remembered merely as a tragedy, as the extermination of a generation, nor as revenge, but as the beginning of a new life.  Life must germinate from death and it can only do so if properly assessed.  The moral value for the future lies in the assessment of events.  However, the assessment must not be cosmopolitan, but Croatian, national, ours. The opinion of others about this event may be interesting for an objective historian who only wants to register the events but has little value for the development of people’s lives.

It is, furthermore, especially worthless–and even harmful–to take into account the assessment of events made by political opponents.  Nietsche said that “If the people want to survive, they must not appreciate what the neighbor appreciates….  the neighbor never understood the neighbor: his soul, because of the folly and malice of his neighbors”.  Assessment here must be subjective, intuitive, one’s own, for the experience to bear fruit for the community that has experienced it” (Dr. Ivo Korsky).

After 1300 years of written history, Bleiburg must be a warning to the Croatian people that no one will protect them in the name of higher ideals, not even in the name of international law, if they cannot, or do not know how to protect themselves.





All Content © 2015 - 2024 Croatian Film Institute, All Rights Reserved