Ustaša - Croatian Revolutionary Movement
Ustase symbol.svg
Dates of operation 29 January 1929 - 8 May 1945
Leader Ante Pavelić
Motives Establishment of an independent Greater Croatia
Active region(s)  Kingdom of Italy
 Kingdom of Yugoslavia
 Kingdom of Hungary
 Independent State of Croatia
Ideology Ustašism[1] (Fascism, Clerical fascism, Nazism)
Notable attacks Assassination of Alexander I of Yugoslavia
Status Dissolved (Ustaša's political emigration established various Ustaše organizations after the war, only active today is Croatian Liberation Movement)
Size 12,000 (December 1941)
28,000 (1942)

The Ustaša - Croatian Revolutionary Movement (Croatian: Ustaša - Hrvatski Revolucionarni Pokret, members known collectively as Ustaše, but sometimes anglicised as Ustashe, Ustashas or Ustashi) was a Croatian fascist[2] anti-Yugoslav separatist movement. The ideology of the movement was a blend of fascism, Nazism,[3] and Croatian nationalism. The Ustaše supported the creation of a Greater Croatia that would span to the River Drina and to the border of Belgrade.[4] The movement emphasized the need for a racially "pure" Croatia and promoted persecution and genocide against Serbs, Jews and Romani people.[5] Fiercely nationalistic, the Ustaše were also fanatically Catholic. In the Yugoslav political context, they identified Catholicism with Croatian nationalism.[6] Following Croatian nationalism, they declared the Catholic and Muslim faiths as religions of the Croatian people. The Ustaše also saw the Islam of Bosniaks as a religion which "keeps true the blood of Croats."[7]

The movement functioned as a terrorist organization before World War II,[8] but in April 1941, they were appointed to rule a part of Axis-occupied Yugoslavia as the Independent State of Croatia, a puppet state[9][10][11] of Nazi Germany.[12][13][14] The Ustaše were chiefly responsible for the World War II Holocaust in Independent State of Croatia. Around three hundred thousand were killed by the collaborationist Ustaše government's racial policies, which condemned all Serbs, Jews, and Roma to death in the concentration camps, alongside Croat resistance members and political opponents.

When it was founded in 1929, the Ustaše was a nationalist organization that sought to create an independent Croatian state. When the Ustaše came to power in the Independent State of Croatia, a state established by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany during World War II, its military wing became the Ustaše Army (Croatian: Ustaška vojnica).[15] The movement collaborated with the German occupation forces in Yugoslavia in fighting an increasingly unsuccessful campaign against the resistance forces, the Yugoslav Partisans, who were recognized in late November 1943 as the military of the Allied Yugoslav state. As German forces withdrew from Yugoslavia in 1945, the Ustaše mostly left the country, part of them remained in SFR Yugoslavia as resistance group known as Crusaders and large number of them was killed without trial by Yugoslav forces (the Partisans) after the end of war.



Everyone called to military service in Croatia from 1868 to 1918 were registered as pučki-ustaše (german: Landsturm) hence the name ustaše

The word ustaša (plural: ustaše) is a variation of the word ustanik(plural:ustanici). It is derived from the verb ustati (Croatian for rise up).

Their name derives from the verb ustati which means "to rise up," hence ustaša would mean an insurgent, or a rebel. This name did not have fascist connotations during their early years in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia as the term "ustat" was itself used in Herzegovina to denote the insurgents from the Herzegovinian rebellion of 1875. "Pučki-ustaša" was a military rank in the Imperial Croatian Home Guard (1868–1918). The full original name of the organization appeared in April 1931 as the Ustaša - Hrvatska revolucionarna organizacija or UHRO (Ustaša - Croatian revolutionary organization), though in 1933 it was renamed the Ustaša - Hrvatski revolucionarni pokret (Ustaša - Croatian revolutionary movement) which it kept until World War II.


Ideological roots

One of the major ideological influences of the Croatian nationalism of the Ustaše was 19th century Croatian activist Ante Starčević.[16] Starčević was an advocate of Croatian unity and independence and was both anti-Habsburg and anti-Serbian.[16] He envisioned the creation of a Greater Croatia that would include territories inhabited by Bosniaks, Serbs, and Slovenes, considering Bosniaks and Serbs as Croats who had been converted to Islam and Orthodox Christianity while considering the Slovenes "mountain Croats".[16] He argued that the large Serb presence in territories claimed by a Greater Croatia was the result of recent settlement, encouraged settlement by Habsburg rulers, and influx of groups like Vlachs who took up Orthodox Christianity and identified as Serbs.[17] Starčević declared his admiration for Bosniaks because in his view they were Croats who tactically had adopted Islam to preserve the economic and political autonomy of Bosnia and medieval Croatia under the Ottoman Empire.[18]

The Ustaše used Starčević's theories to promote the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Croatia and recognized Croatia as having two major ethnocultural components: Catholic Croats and Muslim Croats.[18] The Ustaše deliberately sought to represent Starčević as being connected to their views, and falsely asserted that Starčević, as a liberal, never supported human equality or women's equality while portraying him as a racist.[19]

The Ustaše promoted the theories of Dr. Milan Šufflay who is believed to have claimed that Croatia had been "one of the strongest ramparts of Western civilization for many centuries" that he claimed had been lost with its union with Serbia in Yugoslavia in 1918.[20]

The Ustaše utilized the thesis by Reverend Krunoslav Draganović, which claimed that many Roman Catholics in southern Herzegovina had been converted to Orthodox Christianity in the 16th and 17th centuries, to justify a policy of forced conversion of Orthodox Christians in the area to Roman Catholicism.[21]

The Ustaše was heavily influenced by Italian Fascism and Nazism.[16] Ante Pavelić's position of Poglavnik was based on the similar positions of Duce held by Benito Mussolini and Führer by Adolf Hitler.[22] The Ustaše, like fascists, promoted a corporatist economy.[23] Pavelić and the Ustaše were allowed sanctuary in Italy by Mussolini after being exiled from Yugoslavia.[22] Pavelić had been in negotiations with Fascist Italy since 1927 that included advocating a territory-for-sovereignty swap in which he would tolerate Italy annexing its claimed territory in Dalmatia in exchange for Italy supporting the sovereignty of an independent Croatia.[22]

Political programme and main agendas

In 1933, the Ustaše presented "The Seventeen Principles" that formed the official ideology of the movement. The Principles stated the uniqueness of the Croatian nation, promoted collective rights over individual rights, and declared that people who were not Croat by "blood" would be excluded from political life.[18] Those peoples considered "undesirables" were subjected to mass murder.[24] The Principles called for the creation of a new economic system that would be neither capitalist nor communist.[22] The Principles emphasized the importance of the Roman Catholic Church and the patriarchial family as means to maintain social order and morality.[25] In power, the Ustaše banned contraception and tightened laws against blasphemy.[26]

The Ustaše believed that a government must naturally be strong and authoritarian.[23] The movement opposed parliamentary democracy for being "corrupt" and Marxism and Bolshevism for interfering in family life and the economy and for their materialism.[23] The movement considered political institutions such as political parties and parliaments to be harmful and unnatural.[27]

The Ustaše recognized both Roman Catholicism and Islam as the national religions of the Croatian people but initially rejected Orthodox Christianity as being incompatible with their objectives.[20] The Ustaše in power banned the use of the expression of "Serbian Orthodox faith" and mandated the use of the expression "Greek-Eastern faith" in its place.[24] The Ustaše persecuted "Old Catholics" who did not recognize papal infallibility.[24] Orthodox Christian churches were closed, destroyed, or plundered during Ustaše rule.[24] On 2 July 1942 the Croatian Orthodox Church was founded, and Orthodoxy thus became one of Croatia's state religions.[28]

In economics Ustaše supported the creation of a corporatist economy.[23][26][29] The movement believed that natural rights existed to private property and ownership over small-scale means of production free from state control.[23]

The Ustaše glorified violence and weaponry, emphasizing the value of the shedding of blood to achieve goals, and combined this rhetoric with religious metaphors.[25] Armed struggle, revenge, and terrorism were glorified by the Ustaše.[23]


Before World War II

Group of Ustaše during the training in Italy, 1934
Vlado Chernozemski in Ustaše uniform in Italy, 1934

In October 1928, after the assassination of leading Croatian politician Stjepan Radić, Croatian Peasant Party President in the Yugoslav Assembly by radical Montenegrin politician Puniša Račić, a youth group named the Croat Youth Movement was founded by Branimir Jelić at the University of Zagreb. A year later, Ante Pavelić was invited by the 21-year-old Jelić into the organization as a junior member.} A related movement, the Domobranski Pokret, which had been the name of the legal Croatian army in Austria-Hungary, began publication of Hrvatski Domobran, a newspaper dedicated to Croatian national matters. The Ustase sent Hrvatski Domobran to the United States to garner support for the Ustase from Croatian Americans.[30] The organization around the Domobran tried to engage with and radicalize moderate Croats, using Radić’s murder to stir up emotions in the country. By 1929, however, two divergent political streams had formed within Croatia: some supported the Pavelić view that only violence could secure Croatia's national interests; however, the Croatian Peasant Party, led then by Vladko Maček, successor to Stjepan Radić, had much greater support among Croats.[31]

Various members of the Croatian Party of Rights contributed to the writing of the Domobran, until around Christmas 1928 when the newspaper was banned by the authorities of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. In January 1929, the King banned all national parties,[32] and the radical wing of the Party of Rights was exiled, among them Ante Pavelić, Gustav Perčec and Branimir Jelić. This group was later joined by several other Croatian exiles. In 1931, Albert Einstein and Heinrich Mann drew international attention to the murders of Radić and a Croatian college professor Milan Šufflay, in which they accused the King of complicity in a published protest.[33][34][35] The appeal was addressed to the Paris-based Ligue des droits de l'homme [36] (Human Rights League) and made the front page of the New York Times on May 6, 1931.[33][34][37]

On 20 April 1929, Pavelić and others co-signed a declaration in Sofia, Bulgaria together with members of the Macedonian National Committee, asserting that they would pursue "their legal activities for the establishment of human and national rights, political freedom and complete independence for both Croatia and Macedonia". Due to this, the Court for the Preservation of the State in Belgrade sentenced Pavelić and Perčec to death on 17 July 1929. The exiles started organizing support for their cause among the Croatian diaspora in Europe, North and South America. In January 1932, they named their revolutionary organization "Ustaša". In November 1932, ten Ustaše led by Andrija Artuković, supported by four local sympathisers, attacked a gendarme outpost at Brušani in the Lika/Velebit area. The goal of attack was to scare Yugoslav authorities. The incident has sometimes been termed the Velebit Uprising.

Universal Newsreel's film about the assassination.

One of the most important actions of Ustaše was assassination of Yugoslav king Alexander I. Organizer of assassination was Eugen Dido Kvaternik while assassin was Vlado Chernozemski, member of IMRO. Soon after the assassination, all organizations related to the Ustaše as well as the Hrvatski Domobran, which continued as a civil organization, were banned throughout Europe. Pavelić and Kvaternik were detained in Italy from October 1934 until the end of March 1936. After March 1937, when Italy and Yugoslavia signed a pact of friendship, Ustaše and their activities were banned.

However, not only did these events fail to destroy the Ustaša organization, but it even attracted sympathizers among the Croatian youth, especially among university students. In February 1939, two of these returnees, Mile Budak and Ivan Oršanić, became editors of the newly published magazine Hrvatski narod ("The Croatian nation"), which supported the Ustaše ideas of Croatian independence.

World War II

Ante Pavelić, Poglavnik of Ustaše and of the Independent State of Croatia

The Axis Powers invaded Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941. Vladko Maček, the leader of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) which was the most influential party in Croatia at the time, rejected German offers to lead the new government. On April 10 the most senior home-based Ustaša, Slavko Kvaternik, took control of the police in Zagreb and in a radio broadcast that day proclaimed the formation of the Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH). The name of the state was an attempt to capitalise on the Croat struggle for independence. Maček issued a statement that day, calling on all Croatians to co-operate with the new authorities.[38]

Meanwhile Pavelić and several hundred Ustaše left their camps in Italy for Zagreb, where Pavelić declared new government on 16 April 1941.[39] He accorded himself the title of "Poglavnik" — a Croatian approximation to "Führer" and translating to something like "Headman" in English. Independent State of Croatia was declared on Croatian "ethnic and historical territory"[40] what is today Republic of Croatia (without Istria), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Syrmia and Bay of Kotor. However, few days after declaration of independence Ustaše were forced[39] to sign Treaty of Rome where they surrendered part of Dalmatia and Krk, Rab, Korčula, Biograd, Šibenik, Split, Čiovo, Šolta, Mljet and part of Konavle and Bay of Kotor in favor of Italy. De facto control over this territory varied for the majority of the war, as the Partisans grew more successful, while the Germans and Italians increasingly exercised direct control over areas of interest. The Germans and the Italians split the NDH into two zones of influence, one in the southwest controlled by the Italians and the other in the northeast controlled by the Germans. In September 1943, after Italian capitulation, Croatia annexed whole territory which was abdicated by Italy according to Treaty of Rome.

Ustaše militia

German General Major Friedrich Stahl stands alongside an Ustaše officer and Chetnik commander Rade Radić in central Bosnia, 1942.[41]
Representatives of the Chetniks, Ustaše, and the Croatian Home Guard meet in Bosnia

The regular army of the NDH, the Home Guard (Domobrani), was composed of enlisted men who did not participate in Ustaše activities. The fanatical Ustaše Militia, however, organised in 1941 into five (later 15) 700-man battalions, two railway security battalions, and the elite Black Legion and Poglavnik Bodyguard Battalion (later Brigade), fought with a merciless tenacity which impressed and appalled friend and foe alike.[42]

In May 1941 the Croatian Army was engaged in Eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. In January 1942 it forced the Partisans in Eastern Bosnia back into Montenegro, but could not prevent their subsequent advance into Western Bosnia. Clearly conventional infantry divisions were too cumbersome, and so in September 1942 four specially designed mountain brigades (1st to 4th) were formed, as well as an Ustaše Defensive Brigade, but by November 1942 the Partisans had occupied Northern Bosnia, and the Croats could only hold main towns and communications routes, abandoning the countryside.[43]

During 1943 the Ustaše battalions were re organised into eight four-battalion brigades (1st to 8th).[44]

By 1944 Pavelić was almost totally reliant on his Ustaše units, now 100,000 strong, formed in Brigades 1 to 20, Recruit Training Brigades 21 to 24, three divisions, two railway brigades, one defensive brigade and the new Mobile Brigade. In November 1944 the Army was put under Ustaše control, and the Army of the Independent State of Croatia was reorganized in November 1944 to combine the units of the Ustaše and Croatian Home Guard into eighteen divisions, comprising 13 infantry, two mountain, two assault and one replacement Croatian Divisions, each with its own organic artillery and other support units. There were also several armoured units.[44]

On 27 April 1941, a newly formed unit of the Ustaše army killed members of the largely Serbian community of Gudovac, near Bjelovar. Eventually all who opposed and/or threatened the Ustaše were outlawed. The HSS was banned on 11 June 1941, in an attempt by the Ustaše to take their place as the primary representative of the Croatian peasantry. Vladko Maček was sent to Jasenovac concentration camp, but later released to serve a house arrest sentence due to his popularity among the people. Maček was later again called upon by foreigners to take a stand and oppose the Pavelić government, but refused. In early 1941, Jews and Serbs were ordered to leave certain areas of Zagreb[45][46]

Adolf Hitler meets Ante Pavelić, upon his arrival at the Berghof for a state visit.

Pavelić first met with Adolf Hitler on 6 June 1941. Mile Budak, then a minister in Pavelić's government, publicly proclaimed the violent racial policy of the state on 22 July 1941. Vjekoslav "Maks" Luburić, one of the chiefs of the secret police, started building concentration camps in the summer of the same year. Ustaše activities in villages across the Dinaric Alps led to the Italians and the Germans expressing disquiet. As early as July 10, 1941, Wehrmacht General Edmund Glaise von Horstenau reported the following to the German High Command, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW):

Our troops have to be mute witnesses of such events; it does not reflect well on their otherwise high reputation... I am frequently told that German occupation troops would finally have to intervene against Ustaše crimes. This may happen eventually. Right now, with the available forces, I could not ask for such action. Ad hoc intervention in individual cases could make the German Army look responsible for countless crimes which it could not prevent in the past.[47]

A Gestapo report to Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler, dated February 17, 1942, stated that:

Increased activity of the bands [of rebels] is chiefly due to atrocities carried out by Ustaše units in Croatia against the Orthodox population. The Ustaše committed their deeds in a bestial manner not only against males of conscript age, but especially against helpless old people, women and children. The number of the Orthodox that the Croats have massacred and sadistically tortured to death is about three hundred thousand.[citation needed]

Italian troops in the field had competing territorial claims with their Ustaše allies and had cooperated from the start with Chetnik units operating in the southern areas that they controlled.[citation needed] Hitler tried to insist that Mussolini should have his forces work with the Ustaše, but senior Italian commanders such as General Mario Roatta ignored such orders.[citation needed]

An Ustaša guard poses among the bodies of prisoners murdered in Jasenovac concentration camp

By the end of 1942, the news about events at Jasenovac and elsewhere had also spread among the Croatian population. Writers Vladimir Nazor and Ivan Goran Kovačić escaped from Ustaše-held territory to join the Partisans, and were followed by others.[citation needed]

In 1943, the Germans suffered major losses on the Eastern Front and the Italians signed an armistice with the Allies, leaving behind significant armaments that the Partisans used against the occupiers and the Ustaše. Fighting continued for a short while after the formal surrender of German Army Group E on 9 May 1945, as Axis forces and many refugees attempted to escape to Austria. The Battle of Poljana, between a mixed German and Ustaše column and a Partisan force, was the last battle of World War II on European soil. Many of those fleeing were handed over to the Yugoslavs on the Austrian border, to be subsequently either executed or sent on a "death march" back into the country, an episode known as the Bleiburg massacre. Pavelić, however, with the help of associates among the Franciscans, managed to escape and hide in Austria and Rome, later fleeing to Argentina.

After the war

After World War II, the remaining Ustaše went underground or fled to countries such as Canada, Australia, Germany and South America, with the assistance of Roman Catholic churches and their grassroots supporters[48][48][49] Some of them persisted in their crusade against Yugoslavia.

With the defeat of the Independent State of Croatia, the movement ceased to exist. Infighting over the failure to establish a Croatian state also fragmented the surviving Ustaše. Ante Pavelić formed the Croatian Liberation Movement which drew several of the former state's leaders. Vjekoslav Vrančić founded a reformed Croatian Liberation Movement, and was its leader. Vjekoslav Luburić formed the Croatian National Resistance. Blagoje Jovović, a Montenegrin Serb Chetnik shot Ante Pavelić near Buenos Aires, on April 9, 1957, inflicting injuries from which he later died.[50]

Racial persecution

An entire Serb family lies slaughtered in their home following a raid by the Ustasa militia, 1941.
Serb civilians forced to convert to Catholicism by the Ustaša in Glina

The Ustaše aimed to create an ethnically "pure" Croatia, and saw the Serbs that lived in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina as their biggest obstacle. Thus, Ustaše ministers Mile Budak, Mirko Puk, and Milovan Žanić declared in May 1941 that the goal of the new Ustaše policy was an ethnically clean Croatia. They also publicly announced the strategy to achieve their goal:[51]

  1. One third of the Serbs were to be killed.
  2. One third of the Serbs were to be expelled (ethnically cleansed).
  3. One third of the Serbs were to be forcibly converted to Catholicism.

The NDH government cooperated with the Nazi Germany in the Holocaust and exercised their own version of the genocide against ethnic Serbs living in their borders. State policy about Serbs has been first declared in words of Miroslav Žanić minister of NDH Legislative council on 2 May 1941: "This country can only be Croatian country, and there is no method we would hesitate to use in order to make it truly Croatian and cleanse it of Serbs, who have for centuries endangered us and who will endanger us again if they are given opportunity."[52]

The Ustaše enacted race laws patterned after those of the Third Reich, which were aimed against Jews and Roma and Serbs, who were collectively declared enemies of the Croatian people.[citation needed] Serbs, Jews, Roma and Croatian anti-fascists, including Communist Croats and dissident Croat Byzantine Catholic priests,[citation needed] were interned in concentration camps, the largest of which was the Jasenovac complex, where many were killed by Ustaše militia. The exact number of victims is not known. The number of murdered Jews is fairly reliable: around 32,000 Jews were killed during World War II on NDH territory. Gypsies (Yugoslav Roma) numbered around 40,000 fewer after the war. Of the number of Serbs who died, estimates tend to vary between 300,000 and 700,000.[citation needed]

The history textbooks in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia cited 700,000 as the total number of victims at Jasenovac. This was promulgated from a 1946 calculation of the demographic loss of population (the difference between the actual number of people after the war and the number that would have been, had the pre-war growth trend continued). After that, it was used by Edvard Kardelj and Moša Pijade in the Yugoslav war reparations claim sent to Germany. According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center (citing the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust), "Ustasa terrorists killed 500,000 Serbs, expelled 250,000 and forced 250,000 to convert to Catholicism. They murdered thousands of Jews and Gypsies."[53] The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum says:

Due to differing views and lack of documentation, estimates for the number of Serbian victims in Croatia range widely, from 25,000 to more than one million. The estimated number of Serbs killed in Jasenovac ranges from 25,000 to 700,000. The most reliable figures place the number of Serbs killed by the Ustaša between 330,000 and 390,000, with 45,000 to 52,000 Serbs murdered in Jasenovac.[54]

The Jasenovac Memorial Area, currently headed by Slavko Goldstein, keeps a list of 59,188 names of Jasenovac victims that was gathered by government officials in Belgrade in 1964. Because the gathering process was imperfect, they estimated that the list contains between 60 and 75 percent of the total victims, putting the number of killed in that complex at about 80,000–100,000. The previous head of the Memorial Area Simo Brdar estimated at least 365,000 dead at Jasenovac. The analyses of the statisticians Vladimir Žerjavić and Bogoljub Kočović were similar to those of the Memorial Area. In all of Yugoslavia, the estimated number of Serb deaths was 487,000 according to Kočović, and 530,000 according to Žerjavić, out of a total of 1,014,000 or 1,027,000 deaths (resp.). Žerjavić further stated that there were 197,000 Serb civilians killed in NDH (78,000 as prisoners in Jasenovac and elsewhere) as well as 125,000 Serb combatants.

The Belgrade Museum of Holocaust compiled a list of over 77,000 names of Jasenovac victims. It was previously headed by Milan Bulajić (a controversial nationalist), who supported the claim of a total of 700,000 victims. The current administration of the Museum has further expanded the list to include a bit over 80,000 names. During the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, Alexander Arnon (secretary of the Jewish Community in Zagreb) testified about the treatment of Jews in Yugoslavia during the war. Alexander Arnon's testimony included the following:

Q. One more question: I am not sure that I heard correctly when you said that in one camp hundreds of thousands of Serbs were exterminated?

A. Hundreds of thousands.

Q. In what year was that?

A. Beginning in 1941, and until the end.

Q. And who killed them?

A. The Ustashi.
—Alexander Arnon testifying at the Trial of Adolf Eichmann[55]

During World War II, various German military commanders gave different figures for the number of Serbs, Jews and others killed on the territory of the Independent State of Croatia. They circulated figures of 400,000 Serbs (Alexander Lehr); 350,000 Serbs (Lothar Rendulic); between 300,000 (Edmund Glaise von Horstenau); more than "3/4 of a million Serbs" (Hermann Neubacher) in 1943; 600,000–700,000 until March 1944 (Ernst Fick); 700,000 (Massenbach). Out of around 39,000 Jews that lived on the territory that became the Independent State of Croatia, only around 20% survived the war.

Concentration camps

Ustaše militia execute prisoners near the Jasenovac concentration camp
A knife nicknamed "Srbosjek" or "Serbcutter", strapped to the hand, which was used by the Ustaše militia for the speedy killing of inmates in Jasenovac.

The first group of camps was formed in the spring of 1941. These included:

These six camps were closed by October 1942. The Jasenovac complex was built between August 1941 and February 1942. The first two camps, Krapje and Bročica, were closed in November 1941. The three newer camps continued to function until the end of the war:

There were also other camps in:

Numbers of prisoners:

  • from 80,000–100,000 around 300,000–350,000 up to 700,000 in Jasenovac
  • around 35,000 in Gospić
  • around 8,500 in Pag
  • around 3,000 in Đakovo
  • 1,018 in Jastrebarsko
  • around 1,000 in Lepoglava.

Connections with the Catholic Church

Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac and Ante Pavelić.

The Ustaše policies against Eastern Orthodoxy are incorrectly associated with "Uniatism" in some Eastern Orthodox circles.[citation needed] This term has not been used by the Roman Catholic Church except for Vatican condemnation of the idea in 1990.[56] The Ustaše represented an extreme example of "Uniatism" rather based on nationalism than on religion. They supported violent aggression or force in order to convert Serbo-Croatian speaking Serbian Orthodox believers.

The Ustaše held the position that Eastern Orthodoxy, as a symbol of Serbian nationalism, was their greatest foe.[citation needed] The Ustaše never recognized the existence of a Serb people on the territories of Croatia or Bosnia – they recognized only "Croats of the Eastern faith." They also called Bosniaks "Croats of the Islamic faith," but they had a stronger ethnic dislike of Serbs.

Some former priests, mostly Franciscans, particularly in, but not limited to, Herzegovina and Bosnia, took part in the atrocities themselves. Miroslav Filipović was a Franciscan friar (from the Petrićevac monastery) who allegedly joined the Ustaša army on 7 February 1942 in a brutal massacre of 2730 Serbs of the nearby villages, including 500 children. He was allegedly subsequently dismissed from his order and defrocked, though when he was hanged for his war crimes, he wore his Franciscan robes.[citation needed] Filipović became Chief Guard of Jasenovac concentration camp where he was nicknamed "Fra Sotona", and he was given this nickname by Croats themselves.

For the duration of the war, the Vatican kept up full diplomatic relations with the Ustaša state (granting Pavelić an audience), with its papal nuncio in the capital Zagreb. The nuncio was briefed on the efforts of religious conversions to Roman Catholicism. After the World War II was over, the Ustaše who had managed to escape from Yugoslav territory (including Pavelić) were smuggled to South America. It is widely alleged that this was done through rat lines which were operated by members of the organization who were Catholic priests and who had previously secured positions at the Vatican. Members of the Illyrian College of San Girolamo in Rome were reputedly involved in this: friars Krunoslav Draganović, Petranović, and Dominik Mandić.

The Ustaše regime had sent large amounts of gold that it had plundered from Serbian and Jewish property owners during World War II into Swiss bank accounts.[citation needed]Of a total of 350 million Swiss Francs,[citation needed] about 150 million was seized by British troops;[citation needed] however, the remaining 200 million (ca. 47 million dollars) reached the Vatican.[citation needed] In October 1946 the American intelligence agency SSU alleged that these funds are still held in the Vatican Bank.[citation needed] This issue is the theme of a recent class action suit against the Vatican Bank and others.[57] See Alperin v. Vatican Bank. Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, Archbishop of Zagreb during World War II, was accused of supporting the Ustaše, and of exonerating those in the clergy who collaborated with the Ustaše and were hence complicit in forced conversions. On the other hand, he himself helped Jewish, Serb and Roma/Sinti victims of the Ustaša terror at the same time. Once, while celebrating mass in Zagreb's cathedral, he reportedly said:

katolička crkva ne priznaje podjele na gospodujuće i robujuće rase. Svaki narod, svaka rasa i svaka religija ima jednako pravo dignuti ruke prema nebu i reći oče naš, koji jesi na nebesima.... Neka se srame oni, koji su dušu čovječju, hram Božji, pretvorili u spilju razbojničku!(Croatian) — The Catholic Church does not recognize divisions into "master" and "slave" races. Every nation, every race and every religion has an equal right to lift their hands to Heaven and pray: "Our Father who art in heaven..." May those be ashamed who have made the human soul, which is God's temple, into a cave of thieves.[citation needed]

However, Archbishop Stepinac also said this on 28 March 1941, noting Yugoslavia's early attempts to unite Croatians and Serbs:

All in all, Croats and Serbs are of two worlds, northpole and southpole, never will they be able to get together unless by a miracle of God. The schism (between the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy) is the greatest curse in Europe, almost greater than Protestantism. Here there is no moral, no principles, no truth, no justice, no honesty.[citation needed]

In 1998, Stepinac was beatified by Pope John Paul II. On 22 June 2003, John Paul II visited Banja Luka. During the visit, he held a mass at the aforementioned Petrićevac monastery. This caused public uproar due to the connection of the Petrićevac monastery with the crimes of former friar Filipović. At the same location, the pope also proclaimed the beatification of the Catholic layman Ivan Merz (1896–1928) who was the founder of the "Association of Croatian Eagles" in 1923, which many Serb nationalists and communists view as the precursor to the Ustaše.[citation needed]

Roman Catholic apologists defend the Pope's actions by claiming that the convent at Petricevac was one of the places that went up in flames causing the death of 80-year-old Friar Alojzije Atlija.[citation needed] Further, that the war had produced "a total exodus of the Catholic population from this region"; that the few who remained were "predominantly elderly"; and that the church in Bosnia then risked "total extinction" due to the war.[citation needed] Therefore, supporters state that the focus on the anti-Croatian tragedy presently occurring is more important than focusing on one of 60 years ago.[citation needed]


At the top of the command was the Poglavnik (meaning "head") Ante Pavelic. Pavelic was appointed the office as Head of State of Croatia after Adolf Hitler had accepted Benito Mussolini's proposal of Pavelic, on April 10, 1941.

The Croatian Home Guard was the armed forces of Croatia, it subsequently merged into the Croatian Armed Forces.


The Ustaše U
The Ustaše U with the NDH coat of arms
The U with cross

The symbol of the Ustaše is a wide capital letter "U" with pronounced serifs. This symbol can easily be spraypainted. A slight variation of it includes a small plus inserted at the top, symbolizing a cross. In on-line communication it is sometimes written as =U=. As with fascists in other countries, the Ustasha merely superimposed their political symbols (mainly the letter "U") on already existent national symbols. Their hat insignia was the shield of Coat of Arms of Croatia surrounded or embossed with the U.

The flag of the Independent State of Croatia was a red-white-blue horizontal tricolor with the shield of the Coat of Arms or Croatia in the middle and the U in the upper left. Its currency was the kuna. The checkered Coat of Arms of the old NDH starts with a white field in the corner, and that of today's Croatia starts with a red field in the corner. Some possible explanations are that the white field symbolizes the Croatian nationality, as opposed to the red field which symbolizes the Croatian state; or that the white field is used on the so-called war flag.

The Ustaše greeting was "Za dom - spremni!":

Salute: Za dom! For home(land)!
Reply: Spremni! (We are) ready!

This was used instead of the Nazi greeting Heil Hitler by the Ustaše. While the greeting is invented in the 19th century by Croatian ban Josip Jelačić, today it is nominally associated with Ustasha sympathisers by Serbs or non-Ustasha conservatives associated with the Croatian Party of Rights. However, some Croats see it as a patriotic salute, because it was used long before the Ustase regime[citation needed] and it emphasized the fact of defending your country, your home. In Internet communication, it is sometimes abbreviated as ZDS.

Modern usage of term "Ustaša"

After World War II, the Ustaša movement was split into several organizations and there is presently no political or paramilitary movement that claims its legacy as their "successor". The term "ustaše" is today used as (derogatory) term for Croatian ultranationalism. The term "ustaše" is sometimes used among Serbs to describe Serbophobia or generally to defame political opponents. When Slobodan Milošević was at the end of his rule, the protesters called him "Ustaša".[58]

See also


  1. ^ John R. Lampe, Mark Mazower. Ideologies and national identities: the case of twentieth-century Southeastern Europe. Central European University Press, 2004. Pp. 69.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Der kroatische Ustascha-Staat, Ante Pavelic und Ustascha Bewegung chapter, pp. 13–38
  4. ^ Viktor Meier. Yugoslavia: a history of its demise. English edition. London, England, UK: Routledge, 1999 Pp. 125.
  5. ^ Bernd Jürgen Fischer (ed.). Balkan strongmen: dictators and authoritarian rulers of South Eastern Europe. Purdue University Press, 2007. Pp. 207.
  6. ^ Peter C. Kent, The lonely Cold War of Pope Pius XII: the Roman Catholic Church and the division of Europe, 1943-1950, McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP, 2002 p.46 ISBN 077352326X
    "Fiercely nationalistic, the Ustaše were also fanatically Catholic. In the Yugoslav political context, they identified Catholicism with Croatian nationalism..."
  7. ^ Butić-Jelić, Fikreta. Ustaše i Nezavisna Država Hrvatska 1941-1945. Liber, 1977
  8. ^ Der kroatische Ustascha-Staat, pp. 19–27
  9. ^ Independent State of Croatia - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  10. ^ Yugoslavia, Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  11. ^ History of Croatia:World War II
  12. ^ Watch, Helsinki (1993). War Crimes in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Human Rights Watch. ISBN 1564320839. Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  13. ^ Raič, David (2002). Statehood and the law of self-determination. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. ISBN 90-411-1890-X. Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  14. ^ USHMM about Independent State of Croatia
  15. ^ Der kroatische Ustascha-Staat, Die Ustascha an der Macht chapter, pp. 75–80.
  16. ^ a b c d Fischer 2007, p. 207.
  17. ^ Fischer 2007, pp. 207–208.
  18. ^ a b c Fischer 2007, p. 208.
  19. ^ Ramet, p. 117.
  20. ^ a b Ramet, p. 118.
  21. ^ Ramet, p. 126.
  22. ^ a b c d Fischer 2007, p. 210.
  23. ^ a b c d e f Djilas, p. 114.
  24. ^ a b c d Ramet, p. 119.
  25. ^ a b Fischer 2007, p. 209.
  26. ^ a b Nicholas Atkin, Frank Tallet. Priests, prelates and people: a history of European Catholicism since 1750. New York, New York, USA: I. B. Taurus & Co. Ltd., 2003. Pp. 248.
  27. ^ Djilas, p. 115.
  28. ^ Tomasevich, Jozo. War and revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945: occupation and collaboration, p. 546
  29. ^ Roger Griffin. The nature of fascism. Digital Printing edition. New York, New York, USA: Routledge, 2003 Pp. 120.
  30. ^ Peter Kivisto. The Ethnic enigma: the salience of ethnicity for European-origin groups. Cranbury, New Jersey, USA; London, England, UK; Mississauga, Ontario, Canada: Associated University Press, 1989. Pp. 107.
  31. ^ Djilas, Aleksa. The contested country: Yugoslav unity and communist revolution, 1919-1953, p. 129
  32. ^ Jović, Dejan. Yugoslavia: a state that withered away, p. 51
  33. ^ a b Einstein accuses Yugoslavian rulers in savant's murder, New York Times. May 6, 1931. mirror
  34. ^ a b "Raditch left tale of Yugoslav plot". New York Times. 1931-08-23. p. N2. Retrieved 2008-12-06.  mirror
  35. ^ Nevada Labor. Yesterday, today and tomorow
  36. ^ Realite sur l'attentat de Marseille contre le roi Alexandre
  37. ^ Philip J. Cohen, David Riesman. Serbia's Secret War: Propaganda and the Deceit of History. Texas A&M University Press, 1996, pp. 10–11.
  38. ^ Vladko Maček, In the Struggle for Freedom (New York: Robert Speller & Sons, 1957) p 230.
  39. ^ a b Fischer 2007
  40. ^ Tomašević, Jozo (2001). War and revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945: occupation and collaboration. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. p. 466. ISBN 9780804736152. Retrieved 21 October 2011. "..."ethnic and historical territory"" 
  41. ^ "Photograph #46717". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 5 February 2011. 
  42. ^ Thomas 1995, p. 12.
  43. ^ Thomas 1995, p. 15.
  44. ^ a b Thomas 1995, p. 17.
  45. ^ a b "PHOTOGRAPHY". Jewish Historical Museum of Yugoslavia. 1941. Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  46. ^ Some were cast into concentration camps and subsequentally killed. For the description of these deportations and the treatment in the camps C.f. Djuro Schwartz, "In the Jasenovac camps of death" (ג'ורו שווארץ, במחנות המוות של יאסנובאץ", קובץ מחקרים כ"ה, יד-ושם)
  47. ^ General Edmund Glaise von Horstenau to the OKW, July 10, 1941; report to Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler from the Geheime Staatspolizei, dated February 17, 1942.[citation needed] See also Trifković, Srđa, 'The Real Genocide in Yugoslavia: Independent Croatia of 1941 Revisited'.
  48. ^ a b "US Army File: Dr. DRAGANOVIC' Krunoslav". jasenovac-info. Decemberlassified September 12, 1983. Archived from the original on 2007-10-08. Retrieved 2007-10-04. 
  49. ^ "CIC Memorandum". jasenovac-info. Decemberlassified September 12, 1983. Archived from the original on 2007-10-08. Retrieved 2007-10-04. 
  50. ^
  51. ^ "Independent State of Croatia laws on Croatian - Zakonske osnove progona politickih protivnika i rasno nepodobnih u NDH" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-06-03. 
  52. ^ "Deciphering the Balkan Enigma: Using History to Inform Policy" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-06-03. 
  53. ^ Page Has Moved - Simon Wiesenthal Center Multimedia Learning Center
  54. ^ Jasenovac
  55. ^ Alexander Arnon (19 May 1961). "The Trial of Adolf Eichmann - Session 46 - 4 Sivan 5721". Retrieved 2007-10-04. 
  56. ^ "UNIATISM, METHOD OF UNION OF THE PAST, AND THE PRESENT SEARCH FOR FULL COMMUNION". Vatican. June 17–24, 1993. Retrieved 2007-10-04. "With regard to the method which has been called "uniatism", it was stated at Freising (June 1990) that "we reject it as method for the search for unity because it is opposed to the common tradition of our Churches"." 
  57. ^
  58. ^ Regional Express, prosvjedi-operacija-nije-uspjela-pacijent-je-umro


  • Aarons, Mark and Loftus, John: Unholy Trinity: How the Vatican's Nazi Networks Betrayed Western Intelligence to the Soviets. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992. 372 pages. ISBN 0-312-07111-6.
  • Fischer, Bernd J. (2007). Balkan Strongmen: Dictators and Authoritarian Rulers of South-Eastern Europe. Purdue University Press. ISBN 1557534551. 
  • Hermann Neubacher: Sonderauftrag Suedost 1940–1945, Bericht eines fliegendes Diplomaten, 2. durchgesehene Auflage, Goettingen, 1956.
  • Ladislaus Hory and Martin Broszat. Der Kroatische Ustascha-Staat, 1941–1945. Stuttgart, 1964.
  • Thomas, N., K. Mikulan, and C. Pavelic. Axis Forces in Yugoslavia 1941–45. London: Osprey, 1995. ISBN 1-85532-473-3.
  • Lituchy, Barry M. Jasenovac and the Holocaust in Yugoslavia. New York: Jasenovac Research Institute, 2006. ISBN 0975343203.
  • Srdja Trifkovic: Ustaša: Croatian Separatism and European Politics 1929–1945 Lord Byron Foundation for Balkan Studies, London, 1998.
  • Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Israel Gutman editor-in-chief, Vol. 4, Ustase entry. Macmillan, 1990.
  • Sabrina P. Ramet. The three Yugoslavias: state-building and legitimation, 1918–2005. Bloomington, Indiana, USA: Indiana University Press, 2006.
  • Aleksa Djilas. The contested country: Yugoslav unity and communist revolution, 1919–1953. Harvard University Press, 1991.

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