In “The Book Your Church Doesn’t Want You To Read,” Frank Mortyn describes the ruthless massacre of the youth of Constantinople in the year 532 CE. His purpose in doing so is to illustrate the result of church/state intermingling, of when a religious ideology has total control over government. Constantinople was known as Christian City, and Mortyn describes the massacre of some thirty thousand people who dared to rise against Christian oppression.
But we don’t have to go back fifteen hundred years to demonstrate what can happen when Christianity reigns supreme in a given country, for we have numerous examples of this in more recent times. One of the most heinous of these was in the all too little known bloodbath perpetrated by Catholic Croatia on the Serbs during the Second World War. Catholic diplomats have made great efforts to suppress the facts, which are nonetheless readily available. The Yugoslav government, United Nations and other institutions offer ample documentation to support the inescapable conclusion that the Vatican, working with the fascist Ustashi regime, planned and carried out what is proportionally to the size of the country, the greatest holocaust of the Second World War. Let us examine this issue in some depth.
Yugoslavia proclaimed its independence in 1918, at the end of the First World War. From the beginning, Vatican officials opposed the new country, since the Eastern Orthodox church was the majority religion there. The Vatican’s goal was to set up a Catholic state there and anywhere else it could in Europe to fight what it considered its greatest enemy, communism. With the advent of the Soviet Union, these fears increased to the point that fighting communism became an all-consuming passion for the Catholic hierarchy.
Eugenio Pacelli (1876-1958), the future Pope Pius XII, was at the forefront of a huge diplomatic effort by the Vatican to achieve Catholic hegemony and supremacy in Europe. The rise of the Soviet Union and its determination to spread communism was the motivating factor. Pacelli was able to push the important Catholic Centre Party in Germany far to the right, thus paving the way for Hitler’s eventual ascension to power in 1933. The Vatican soon signed a Concordat with Hitler. And, in Italy in 1929, the Vatican signed a pact with Mussolini (the Vatican was the first country to officially recognize Mussolini, in 1922). These and other successes allowed fascist Catholic movements to spring up everywhere. Many priests, bishops, and other church officials soon became actively involved in the fascist movement.
In Croatia, a powerful political amalgamation arose when the Catholic hierarchy lent its support to an illegal Nationalist organization called the Ustashi, let by Ante Pavelic (1889-1959). This is not the place for an in-depth examination of all the intrigue involved in their eventual success, but, to summarize, years of assassinations and political subterfuge resulted in the Ustashi’s success in creating a Catholic state in Croatia in 1941.
Pavelic’s main Catholic ally, one who worked with him in creating the totalitarian regime there, was Archbishop, later Cardinal, Aloysius Stepinac (1898-1960). Stepinac was head of a committee which carried out forcible conversions and was also the Supreme Military Apostolic Vicar of the Ustashi army. These two men, working side by side, and directly under Pius’ watchful eye, created the most ruthless, inhumane fascist dictatorship in the Third Reich. Their objective, quite simply, was the total annihilation of all non-Catholics, or non-Nazis. In this they were all too successful.
Pacelli, Pius XII since 1939, blessed Pavelic and the new Ustashi state. This state combined terrorism and religious fanaticism to achieve total control over the population. Concentration camps soon sprung up, many of them run by church officials, such as the legendary Jasenovac camp, called the “Pit of Death”, run by father Miroslav Filipovic (1915-1946).
Filipovic was as vicious and murderous as the worst Nazi thugs. To cite but one example, on February 2, 1942, he participated in a mass murder at three different villages, Drakulic, Motike, and Sargovac in which more than 2300 innocent Serbs were slaughtered like cattle. Filipovic and father Zvonimir Brekalo ordered the small children of these villages brought to them personally, whereupon the two men of god proceeded to slit the children’s throats. He was given the nickname “the Glorious One” by his fellow Ustashi. His actions were so horrific that the Nazi government actually had Filipovic court-marshaled. At his postwar trial, a survivor stated that during one of the massacres Filipovic incited his fellow Ustashi to act as cruelly as possible. Filipovic admitted under oath that some twenty to thirty thousand men, women, and children were murdered at the main Jasenovac camp. The war crimes commission, comparing him with Ljubo Milos, known for slashing prisoners to death in a mock clinic, concluded that Filipovic surpassed Milos in sadism.
Under the Ustashi, freedoms were ruthlessly eliminated. The atrocities committed by this regime were so horrific that when Hitler’s own soldiers, temporarily stationed in Croatia, witnessed some of the atrocities, they set up a special commission to look into the situation.
It has been claimed by Catholic apologists that the massacres and atrocities perpetrated on Croatia were the work of the Ustashi alone, and the Catholic hierarchy was a victimless pawn to the whole thing. This is completely absurd; the entire operation was Vatican-directed and had been so since the beginning of the regime. Pius had his own representative in Croatia, Father Marcone, who reported everything back to him. Tellingly, no Catholic leader was ever called to task by the Vatican for his role in the atrocities.
All this should give us pause to think. Over seven hundred thousand people perished in the Ustashi regime, many of them tortured to death under the most unbelievable inhumane conditions. Many were burned to death or buried alive. Others were simply starved to death. That the victories allies failed to acknowledge the role of the Catholic Church in the unbelievable atrocities perpetrated in Croatia is a singularly damning indictment against them. If justice were the main focus at the Nuremburg trials, then Pope Pius XII would have been in the dock along with Goering, Ribbentrop, and the other top Nazi leaders.
After the collapse of the Third Reich, and of the Ustashi government a few months later, Pavelic fled to Austria where he was captured by American forces. However, before he could be tried as a war criminal, the Vatican intervened and he was unconditionally freed. He fled to Italy and got asylum in Vatican City. The Ustashi forces went underground as guerillas and their activities before and after the war are the basis for many of the troubles that plague that region to this day.
In his postwar trial, Stepinac was convicted by Yugoslav authorities on multiple counts of war crimes. Despite his obvious record as a war criminal, efforts were made to have him freed, which was done in 1952. He was immediately elevated to Cardinal by Pope Pius. In a final slap in the face of justice, Pope John Paul II in 1998 declared him a martyr (!) and had him beatified.
The 1990s witnessed the disaster of Yugoslavia’s breakup. To be sure, there were many secular causes, but most of those killed were killed because of their religious beliefs. It is estimated that over a million people have been killed because of Yugoslavia’s two religious based wars.
It should not be inferred from the above that the Christian/fascist connection was restricted to Croatia and Serbia (and of course Germany). In the 1930s the Hungarians had the Cross Scythe movement, overtly fascist, Christian, and anti-semitic. This group merged with other like-minded groups to form the Arrow-Cross Party which claimed that “Hungarianism believes in God and believes in Jesus.” This group took an active role in the Holocaust in Hungary. Romania likewise sported many similar groups including the National Christian Party and the Iron Guard, which began using the swastika as a symbol back in 1923, prior to the Nazis adoption of that awful symbol.
The role of Catholicism in the rise of fascism is one that most historians are either ignorant of, or else choose to ignore. Yet, the indisputable fact remains that the Vatican supported Hitler, Mussolini, and Pavelic from the beginning, and Catholicism was allied with fascism elsewhere, as in Petain’s Vichy government in France during World War Two, and in Francisco Franco’s post-war Spain. The Catholic hierarchy did not merely assent to fascism, but instead, led the charge from the start.
The swastika is probably the most recognized symbol of hate in the world today. Let us look forward to the day when the crucifix is seen in the same way.
1.The Yugoslav Auschwitz and the Vatican by Vladimir Dedijer. Published by Prometheus Books, Buffalo New York 1992
2.The Vatican’s Holocaust by Avro Manhattan. Published by Ozark Books, Springfield, MO 1986
3.Hitler’s Pope: The Sacred History of Pius XII by John Cornwell. Published by The Penguin Group, New York 1999
4.Christianity in its Own Words: Why I Fear Christianity part 3 of 3 by William Sierichs Jr. Published Sept./October by Atheists for Human Rights, Minneapolis, MN