Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Greece must reform politically as well as economically

Image: Greek farmers protest at subsidy cuts on the border with Bulgaria.

It was only a matter of time. Once it became clear that the EU was not bending over backwards to bail Greece out of the debt crisis created by the latter’s own profligacy and corruption, it was inevitable that loud voices would be raised in Greece presenting the country as the victim of dastardly plotting foreign imperialists. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou led the charge, loudly turning reality on its head to complain that it was actually the EU that was failing Greece and was responsible for Greece’s crisis, rather than the other way around: ‘Greece is not a political or an economic superpower to fight this alone. The EU gave political support in the last few months of this crisis, but in the battle against impressions and the psychology of the market it was at the very least timid.’ Indeed, according to Papandreou, the EU’s errors went beyond ‘timidity’ in response to the Greek crisis, to actually being guilty of creating the crisis in the first place: ‘There was speculation about our country which created a psychology of imminent collapse, prophesies which risked becoming self-fulfilling’. Indeed, ‘There was a lack of co-ordination between various bodies of the union, the commission, the member states, the European Central Bank, even different opinions within those bodies.’

Deputy prime minister Theodoros Pangalos has responded to Germany’s unwillingness to bail Greece out by bringing up the Nazi occupation of Greece in World War II: ‘They [the Nazis] took away the Greek gold that was in the Bank of Greece, they took away the Greek money and they never gave it back.’ Consequently, ‘I don’t say they have to give back the money necessarily, but they have to say thanks. And they [the German government] shouldn’t complain much about stealing and not being very specific about economic dealings.’ It may seem inappropriate for the deputy head of a democratically elected government of an EU and NATO member-state to bring up the Nazis just because Germany does not want to pay for someone else’s mess, but Pangalos’s views are entirely representative of the wave of anti-German bile currently washing over Greece. Margaritis Tzimas of the opposition New Democracy party asks rhetorically ‘How does Germany have the cheek to denounce us over our finances when it has still not paid compensation for Greece’s war victims?’ Deputies of the Left Coalition party last week not only demanded that the government press Berlin over the issue of reparations, but blamed Germany for Greece’s financial crisis: ‘By their statements, German politicians and German financial institutions play a leading role in a wretched game of profiteering at the expense of the Greek people.’

One step further down in tastelessness is the joke apparently doing the rounds in Athens, concerning the government’s attempt to make citizens collect receipts to flush tradesmen out of the black market: ‘For every VAT receipt not collected, the Germans will shoot 10 patriots.’ This Greek sense of victimhood is attaining comical levels. As Reuters reports, ‘Greeks recall that Greek “Gastarbeiter” (guest workers) were among migrants who contributed to Germany’s economic miracle in the 1960s and 1970s while their homeland was ruled by a military dictatorship backed by NATO, of which West Germany was a member.’ In other words, Germany should feel both grateful to Greece for sending it immigrants and guilty because Greece was ruled by a dictatorship.

Of course, the reality of who has helped whom economically is somewhat different. Germany is by far the largest contributor to EU funds, while Greece is the largest net recipient of EU funds after Poland and alongside Romania, and the largest per capita recipient after Luxembourg and Belgium, according to Open Europe’s figures. Germany claims that it has contributed 33 billion deutschemarks in aid to Greece since 1960, both bilaterally and in the context of the EU, on top of 115 million deutsche marks for war reparations. Given the gratitude the Germans are now receiving for these vast sums, it is unsurprising they are somewhat reluctant to cough up still more.

Yet in one sense, the Greeks are right, and the EU must bear some of the responsibility for the Greek financial mess. It is, after all, the EU which has been subsidising Greek profligacy for the past three decades, although Greece’s public sector corruption, high levels of tax evasion, overblown bureaucracy and low retirement age have been no secret. The EU is like the mother who spoils her child rotten, then must suffer its ingratitude and tantrums when it doesn’t have every one of its demands met. Ultimately, the mother does bear responsibility if her child is a spoilt brat who doesn’t respect her. Greece’s current anti-German tantrum is not an isolated quirk; the country is a veritable hotbed of anti-Western nationalism, even descending into terrorism, as the brilliant Greek journalist Takis Michas has described. The paradox of why a country that has received so much from the West – from huge EU subsidies, through military protection against the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War to diplomatic support over Cyprus and Macedonia – should be so awash with anti-Western sentiment may not be such a paradox after all: it is a case of biting the hand that feeds.

While Greece’s EU-encouraged financial irresponsibility is now being widely remarked upon, it is less frequently noted that Greek irresponsibility, and EU encouragement of this irresponsibility, extend beyond the economic sphere. Greece has been found by the European Court of Human Rights to be in breach of the human rights of both its ethnic Macedonian and its Turkish minorities, but it continues to defy the Court’s rulings without incurring any penalties from the EU. Greece was the most enthusiastic ally of the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s; it helped to undermine the UN’s 2004 Annan Plan to reunify Cyprus; it is one of only five EU members that has broken ranks over the issue of Kosova’s international recognition (and the only one that cannot justify this through reference to its own fears of separatism); and, most dangerously of all, it is vetoing the neighbouring Republic of Macedonia’s attempts to join both NATO and the EU, on account of its nationalistic hostility to Macedonia’s use of its own name.

On the other hand, according to February 2010 figures, Greece is currently contributing only 15 troops to NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, as against 165 from Macedonia – a non-member with one fifth of Greece’s population; 175 from Georgia; 255 from Albania; 295 from Croatia; 540 from Bulgaria; 945 from Romania; and 1,755 from Turkey. It would appear that those Balkan countries that were on the wrong side in the Cold War are somewhat readier to contribute to the Western alliance’s military efforts today than the only Balkan Christian country which enjoyed NATO protection during the Cold War, although Turkey appears readier to contribute too, despite being predominantly Muslim.

We can sum up the terms of the relationship between Greece and the rest of NATO and the EU as follows. We defend Greece’s security; we fund Greece’s prosperity with massive subsidies; and we give Greece unwarranted diplomatic support vis-a-vis Macedonia and Cyprus. Greece pursues policies that destabilise the EU economically and South East Europe politically, while making the minimum possible contribution to the security of the democratic world. And the Greek political and intellectual classes complain endlessly about the evils of Germany, the US and Western imperialism in general.

This must stop. The reforms demanded of Greece by the EU as the price of a bail-out cannot be limited to the economic sphere, but must extend to the political as well. As an absolute minimum, Greece must recognise the rights of its national minorities, including the right to freedom of association, conscience and self-definition, and must immediately announce it will comply with all rulings of the European Court of Human Rights as regards these rights. And it must lift its veto of Macedonia’s membership of both NATO and the EU, announcing that its dispute with Macedonia will not be resolved through blackmail or at the price of South East Europe’s Euro-Atlantic integration.

The EU is moving to strip Greece of control over its own taxation and spending policies if it does not comply with austerity demands. Some German officials are reportedly demanding that Greece also be denied a vote in all EU matters while it remains in ‘receivership’. This would be eminently sensible. Greece’s economic and political irresponsibility are two sides of the saim coin, and there is no point in the EU demanding that the country behave responsibly in the economic sphere while giving it a blank cheque to pursue nationalistic policies that destabilise South East Europe. The nationalism that leads the Greek political classes to abuse their membership of the Euro-Atlantic club to try to force Macedonia to change its name is the same nationalism that leads them to milk the EU for all it is worth, then engage in crude xenophobic and anti-imperialist tantrums when the bottle is taken away. Greece can be selfishly nationalistic or it can be a responsible member of the European family. It is up to the EU to make clear that it expects the latter.

This article was published today on the website of the Henry Jackson Society.

Sunday, 28 February 2010 Posted by | Balkans, European Union, Germany, Greece, Macedonia, NATO | , , , | 1 Comment

Greek prime minister blasts Western imperialism’s attack on his country

Video: Greece’s membership of the EU – A short history.

George Papandreou, the Greek prime minister, has slammed the EU for displaying ‘timidity’ in its dealings with Greece’s financial crisis. In a live address to his cabinet following his return from an emergency summit in Brussels, the normally mild-mannered leader hit out at the lack of united support from the EU. ‘Greece is not a political or an economic superpower to fight this alone. The EU gave political support in the last few months of this crisis, but in the battle against impressions and the psychology of the market it was at the very least timid.’ He went on, ‘There was speculation about our country which created a psychology of imminent collapse, prophesies which risked becoming self-fulfilling’. Indeed, ‘There was a lack of co-ordination between various bodies of the union, the commission, the member states, the European Central Bank, even different opinions within those bodies.’

‘In other words,’ continued Papandreou, ‘the fact that our stupendously bloated and corrupt state has stuffed its face to the point of heart-failure can conveniently be blamed on Western imperialism which, as we know, is to blame for absolutely everything that goes wrong for us.’ Papandreou then went on to explain the long history of Western imperialism’s persecution of the Greeks, beginning with the Latin conquest of Constantinople in 1204: ‘The Western powers enabled the Greek nationalist right to defeat the Communists in the Greek civil war. NATO defended Greece from the Communist bloc throughout the Cold War. The European Economic Community let Greece join in 1981, even though our scandalous human-rights record meant that we belonged there the way a hippopotamus belongs in a pole-vaulting competition. It supported us against Macedonia – sorry, against FYROM – in the ‘name dispute’ from 1992 – God alone knows why. It turned a blind eye to our support for Slobodan Milosevic. It has continued to keep Turkey out on account of Cyprus – even after the Turkish Cypriots supported and the Greek Cypriots sabotaged the Annan Plan to reunify the island. It has subsidised us so much that we are literally bursting at the seams. And now that our state is literally collapsing under the weight of its EU-funded profligacy, the EU is refusing to give us even more money to get us out of the mess we created. How dare they ?’

‘The evidence is clear’, continued Papandreou, ‘that the West has always been against Greece and is plotting against us in all possible ways. What will these heartless bastards think of next ?’

Greater Surbiton News Service

Thursday, 18 February 2010 Posted by | Balkans, European Union, Greece, Macedonia | | 2 Comments

Interview with Nihada Hodzic, survivor of the Zaklopaca massacre

One of the myths most frequently used in attempts at justifying the Srebrenica massacre of 1995 is the myth that the fighting in the Srebrenica region was started by the Bosnian side, and that the massacre was therefore an act of ‘retaliation’ or ‘revenge’. In this interview Nihada Hodzic, a survivor of the Zaklopaca massacre of 16 May 1992, tells Daniel Toljaga of the Institute for the Research of Genocide, Canada how Bosniaks in the Srebrenica region were persecuted and killed from the first weeks of the Bosnian war in the spring of 1992 – months before Naser Oric’s oft-cited raids against the local Serb villages.

This is a guest post by Daniel Toljaga of the Institute for the Research of Genocide, Canada

From April to June 1992, Serb forces plundered and torched hundreds of Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) villages and hamlets in the municipality (district) of Srebrenica and the neighboring municipalities of Bratunac, Vlasenica, Rogatica, and Visegrad. According to the UN war crimes tribunal’s judgment in the Naser Oric case, ‘Srebrenica town and the villages in the area held by Bosnian Muslims were constantly subjected to Serb military assaults, including artillery attacks, sniper fire, as well as occasional bombing from aircrafts. Each onslaught followed a similar pattern. Serb soldiers and paramilitaries surrounded a Bosnian Muslim village or hamlet, called upon the population to surrender their weapons, and then began with indiscriminate shelling and shooting. In most cases, they then entered the village or hamlet, expelled or killed the population, who offered no significant resistance, and destroyed their homes.’ One of these villages was Zaklopača, a small place formerly in the Vlasenica municipality near the border with Srebrenica. On 16 May 1992, Serb forces approached the village and demanded Bosniak residents to hand over their weapons. Except few hunting rifles, Bosniak residents did not have any combat weapons to defend themselves. When the Serbs learned that the residents were effectively unarmed, they blocked all exists of the village and massacred at least 63 Bosniak men, women and children.

DANIEL TOLJAGA: Nihada, thank you for agreeing to take part in this interview. I am truly honored to have this opportunity. When you think of Zaklopača, do bad memories overshadow good ones?

NIHADA HODZIC: First of all, I would like to sincerely thank you for the opportunity to share my experiences and broader knowledge about the events of May 16, 1992, that would befall Zaklopača and much of eastern Bosnia as the Serb aggression progressed into the heartland of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I feel extremely fortunate to be in the position of talking to you about what exactly happened on that dreadful day, instead of being among the forgotten statistics that will never be able to demand justice for what has been done to them, and to us who were lucky enough to survive. I feel fortunate to have lived; however, I feel that much of the life my family and I knew died together with our loved ones. So to answer your question, yes, I believe that the bad events will inevitably overshadow the good memories until proper justice has been served. Though we survived, we live with the legacy and pain of this gruesome event and its memories will haunt us as long as we are alive. We would like to think of our relatives in more ‘happy’ terms, but whenever we remember how unjustly and brutally their lives were cut short, it brings us back to this sad reality we have to deal with — as we have still not seen those who committed the heinous murders brought to proper justice.     

DANIEL TOLJAGA: A similar crime also took place in Zaklopača in the fall of 1941, when Serb Chetniks under the command of Nazi collaborator Jezdimir Dangić barricaded 81 Bosniak men, women and children in the local mekteb (Muslim religious school) and then burned them alive. Did you ever imagine that Serbs would repeat the Zaklopača massacre in 1992 – some three years before the Srebrenica Genocide and 50 years after World War II?

NIHADA HODZIC: Generally people were assured that nothing would ever happen to us – when we heard automatic weapons being fired in the distance, we were told that it was only routine ‘training’ by the armed forces. My grandfather was not as gullible however. He knew the picture looked very bleak and that something terrible was surely coming our way. You see, my grandfather Ibro Hodžić, was a survivor. He survived a line up shooting at the hands of his Serb neighbor where upon around a dozen other Muslims form the village were killed, my great grandfather included – he was killed by another Serb neighbor. My grandfather was only fifteen years old then in 1941 and you could say his quick thinking saved his life. As the intoxicated Četnik was loading another bullet to shoot, my grandfather fell to the ground just before he had pulled the trigger on his very old model shot gun. He lay there motionless for quite some time, during which more Serbs came and drilled a few more bullets into the heads of those still moaning with signs of life. My fifteen year old grandfather survived this ordeal in the 1940s just to be killed by the same people in 1992 on the steps of his own home, along with the rest of his five sons and grandson who was only sixteen at the time. But, no one could really understand my grandfather’s fears as we had a well trusted Serb neighbor Milenko Đurić (Gorčin) reassuring our safety time and time again, telling us “not even a hair will be missing from your bodies.” Unfortunately, we had trusted our Serb neighbors; we believed their deceitful lies to keep us grounded in the village. Prior to the massacre we had attempted to flee to a safe haven in Zivinice, however we were sent back with the same type of reasoning by the Serb neighbor. There is apt reasons to believe that he was directly or indirectly involved in the entire plot of the incident in Zaklopača. Gorčin played as a middleman who manipulated our fears and our trust in him as a long term neighbor and whom some even considered a great ‘friend’ in order to set the stage for a more effective premeditated “military” operation by the Serbs. We were certainly sensing the changing atmosphere and the deepening angst which was growing within our community – but we could have never imagined being betrayed in such a cruel way. 

DANIEL TOLJAGA: What were the first signs that the massacre was about to happen?

NIHADA HODZIC: One week prior to the massacre two of my uncles and my father were arrested and brought for questioning to the Police Station in Milići. At the time my father was working in Boksit Transport, in Milići, where upon one day he along with his relative, on their way home, were taken by the reserve police and brought to the Milići police station. First however, they had asked for their identification cards, and made sure they were Muslim. Who ever had a Muslim name, they told them to form a line and to follow them to the station. When they finally reached their destination, for hours they interrogated them with petty questions. Question regarding personal family backgrounds to some other questions to which no one could give any answers to. For example they would point to a machine gun and ask whose it was – obviously no one could have known – when my father answered “I don’t know” the interrogator said “you will know” and shoved him off. At the police station my father along with hundreds of other Muslim men were shoved into a small room where he witnessed some very gruesome acts being performed on these defenseless civilian men. They were beaten beyond recognition, some defecated out of fear and it was simply a gruesome and frightening atmosphere. Shortly there after, though it seemed much longer to my father, our long time neighbor Gorčin, whom I have mentioned before, came to his ‘rescue’. Gorčin was responsible for my father’s release from the police station, and he was brought back home that same day, however my father, witnessing what he had, anticipated something far worse was brewing then we might have thought.  Gorčin, again, reassured us that this would never happen again, that my father should continue to go to work, though my father had refused to go after this incident. Of course, other men where not so lucky, they were left behind at the station, and we are not sure what happened to them.

There are however other smaller indicators of the massacre coming our way. About the same number of days prior, Serbs were adamantly cruising through our village in search for weapons, and demanded that everyone who had any type of weapon even “hunting guns” – that they should hand them over. In other words, they were demilitarizing our village days before the actual massacre, making sure we had no way of defending ourselves, even though no one had claims to any type of lethal weapons anyway.

Also, just about when the massacre was to occur, my mother (Najla Hodžić) was in her vegetable garden just outside of our home, when Police jeeps and cars came flooding into our small town. It was noon, on a very beautiful and sunny Spring day on May 16, 1992. There were a few cars (she could not recall the exact number as they were driving back and forth through the village), in front of them a police car and following them a white jeep with the slogan “pokolj” (slaughter) written in Cyrillic across the vehicle. Our house was located right next to the main road, so my mother saw everything in clear view as they were rolling into the village, coming from the main road leading from the town Milići. She recalls that the vehicles had been packed with Četniks, with long beards, some with nylon socks covering their heads, and loaded Kalashnikovs across their broad chests. Upon seeing this, my mother hurriedly motioned my oldest uncle Bećir Hodžić (who was helping my mother around the garden) to run, yet his last words to my mother were “don’t worry Sister-in-law everything is going to be alright – don’t be afraid” when he was spotted by the Četniks and taken away, not to be seen alive again.

DANIEL TOLJAGA: At this point, you and your mother were also in immediate danger of being killed. Can you tell us what happened next?

NIHADA HODZIC: Once the vehicles moved further into town, my mother ran into the house and franticly began to pack the bare essentials (some clean clothes, food and a few family pictures) and get my sisters and I ready for the worse possible situation. I was only a small child then, but I remember, in the midst of this frightful situation I was so obnoxious as to whine about which clothes I was going to wear – obviously I was not fully aware of the seriousness of what was about to happen. At this time, we had no idea where my father was, and thus we would remain clueless of his whereabouts until almost one year later, when we finally found out that he was alive. But back to the massacre. My mother, my two older sisters and I ran across the yard to one of my other uncle’s homes (Haso Hodžić), at which time almost all my other aunts and their kids were gathered. Just as we, along with my other five aunts and their children and few other neighbors gathered inside, the lightning bolts began to fly, and the sound of thundering bullets began to ring on all sides. My mother was with me all the time – cuddling me inside her lap and shielding me from all the harm. The bullets whizzed through the house, creating big cratered holes as they made a full impact with the concrete walls. At one point, a bullet pierced through my mothers light denim jacket, as I was still cuddling in her lap. The bullet missed us both by a hair. For another fifteen to twenty minutes, the showers of deadly bullets filled the suffocating air, killing anything that was moving – anything that was alive would have met its final death.  As it calmed down, we heard my second uncle (whose house we were all in) calling upon my aunt to come out. We all did, and form the porch we saw my uncle standing at gunpoint. A Serb, was aiming at him, ready to pull the trigger any time. My dear uncle looked pale, and afraid. He asked for a cigarette, and as he reached for the lighter in his pocket, the ringing sound of Kalashnikovs went off once more, and as we were all standing on the porch, we all saw my beloved uncle murdered in front of our very own eyes. His body was thrown up into the air at least a few feet from detonation and came back crashing onto the hot asphalt, motionless and lifeless. My grandmother saw her son mercilessly killed in front of her sorrowful, teary eyes. As she frantically yelled out “My son is Dead,” the Serb (Četnik) opened fire again, chasing us back into the house, shocked, dismayed and still in disbelief of what we had seen. But my grandmother ran out, bewildered, lost and deeply hurt into the streets – suffering a mental breakdown. 

Through out this time, we were quite unaware of the whereabouts of my father (Ekrem Hodžić). From his perspective of the story, things followed in a different fashion from ours. While we were still inside the house, my father observed everything from the woods just above my grandfather’s house. As he saw the cars rolling into town, driving in the direction of the village ‘Gornji Zalkovik’ full of Četniks and returning empty. Curiously, my father went north into the woods to observe where they had gone while two of my uncles went down to see what was happening in town. Just as he reached into the woods the shorts began to fly. He remained in a state of shock as he began running deeper into the woods, however, unaware of where he was going he returned to the outskirts of the woods in dismay – unable to comprehend what was going on.

DANIEL TOLJAGA: When the shooting stopped, I can only imagine the shock and horror you and your family had to endure. Would you mind telling us what happened immediately after the massacre?

NIHADA HODZIC: As the thunder of bullets finally stopped, our small town was gasping for air – it was gasping for life. The Serbs left, the same way they came in, completing their heinous job with blood on their hands. The blood of innocence – the blood of Zaklopača. We dared to step out again, to witness that inferno, the death and destruction of this inevitable storm which plundered our town and raped it of its virtues and good life. We saw dead bodies everywhere. The smell of death permeated the entire town. Dead children, women, men. Bodies everywhere. We were in shock. The tears seemed to have almost dried up, nothing was coming out. It was like a nightmare! A terrible nightmare you desperately wished to wake up from, but never did. We covered my uncle with a blanket, and proceeded to go further into town – hoping to find survivors. We saw my eldest uncle (Bećir Hodžić) again – in a kneeling position with a cigarette still burning in between his index and middle fingers, his head bowed to the ground, and a puddle of blood next to him – he was dead too. We saw small children with their mothers lying side by side on the ground, motionless, very still – in an eternal sleep. We were told that my father was among the dead too. We couldn’t go on. My family and I decided to give our selves in (to “surrender” to the Serbs) – we thought we had no one left alive, in this highly emotional moment we were ready to die too.

My father, on the other hand, was met by other men who survived and fled into the woods. Among them was my uncle Bećir’s son Amir (seventeen at the time), who told my father, that everyone in town was dead — that they were the only survivors. My father also witnessed during this time, after the massacre, Serbs came back to the village to burry their crimes into yet another mass grave. My father saw everything. From this point onward, my father’s path diverged from my mother’s, sisters’ and my own. It is a long story… We later learned that my father was indeed alive, in March of 1993 we were re-united in Zagreb, Croatia.

DANIEL TOLJAGA: It is my understanding that remains of eight members of your family were located in the Zaklopača mass grave. Can you tell us more about them?

NIHADA HODZIC: I have actually lost many more relatives, as our small village was very closely knit and most of us were related in some way or another. It was a relatively small village, where over 200 people were ethnic Muslim Bosniaks. Around sixty percent of the entire population of Zaklopača – somewhere around forty percent were killed and the remaining Muslim population was ethnically cleansed from the area. My grandfather was Ibro Hodžić. He was killed along with my five uncles; Becir Hodžić, Huso Hodžić with his sixteen year old son Mersudin Hodžić, also, Haso Hodžić, Hamdija Hodžić, and Safet Hodžić. The entire ten member family of Ibis Hodžić which included my cousin Naida Hodžić who was only four years old at the time she was killed. Also, members from the family Hamidović who were our extended relatives. My father, and my two first cousins, Amir and Samir Hodžić were the only male survivors from my immediate family. But it is hard to separate the pain we feel for our close relatives from the pain we feel for our neighbors and good friends. We hurt for them all! 

DANIEL TOLJAGA: Forensic reports indicate that the bodies of the Zaklopača massacre victims were first buried in the village, but were later dug up and relocated in order to cover up the crime – just as your father saw it happen. This looks like a well-planned operation, yet none of the people involved in this ghastly crime have ever been prosecuted. In your opinion, what should be done to put pressure on the authorities of Bosnia-Herzegovina to finally prosecute suspects for this massacre?

NIHADA HODZIC: Well, I am certainly no expert in this matter. All I can say is that my family has tried various means to identify those responsible and push for some sort of justice. My family, as well as other survivors form the village, have given numerous testimonies to different sources in an attempt to find any persons responsible, who were directly involved in the massacre. Our big obstacle is that most of the people who could have or might have known these Serbs were killed. Unfortunately, or fortunately, my father was not close enough to identify any potential suspects, but we do know for certain that the Milići police force was directly involved in the Zaklopača massacre. Of course there were some attempts at questioning certain individuals, however nothing was ever established. The process has been extremely slow and exhausting, and thus far no one has been convicted nor held responsible for the crimes committed in Zaklopača in May of 1992. 

DANIEL TOLJAGA: The ICTY court transcripts suggest Milenko Đurić was directly involved in the events leading to the Zaklopača massacre, including demands that Bosniak villagers hand over their weapons. I find it interesting that in the chain of command, he was directly under Milomir Stanić – former mayor in charge of all civil and military authorities. Stanić’s authority also stretched to Sušica camp where Serb forces subjected 2,500 Bosniak civilians to horrific conditions, torture, rapes, and murders. Do you think that Đurić and Stanić will ever be brought to justice to face justice?

NIHADA HODZIC: Unfortunately I am very pessimistic in this regard. I do not see any proper justice being served. As we have clearly seen from previous trials of Serb war criminals and their subsequent verdicts, that their given sentences are simply a superficial number, and are not completely enforced, for the most part. We do not wish to speculate on the levels of involvement ‘Gorčin’ had in the Zaklopača massacre, but we believe that he will walk free either way. We do have grounds to doubt that he may have indirectly been involved, as he did advise my uncle Haso in particular (because of their pre-war dislikes of each other) that he should give up his “weapon” insisting that my uncle had a gun and that he should hand it over to the Serbs. He also, as I said before, kept reassuring us safety and that we should all stay firm in our village as he said there was no need for us to go anywhere. No one, to this date, has been convicted of the war crimes in Zaklopača, and the current pattern in convictions do not indicate that there ever will be justice for the victims of the massacre.

DANIEL TOLJAGA: Thank you for taking part in this interview. Do you have any final words?

NIHADA HODZIC:  Although I was very young, at the time of the Zaklopača massacre, I do live with its legacy to this day. My father still wakes up in nightmares from the haunting memories of that day, and my mother is still suffering from the side effects of shock and traumatic stress. Today, I am fighting to raise awareness in any way I can about what happened in Zaklopača on May 16, 1992, because I feel it is important to note that genocide was not limited to Srebrenica – it extended far and beyond – across all of eastern Bosnia. These were premeditated and cold blooded, calculated massacres, which targeted one particular group of people for extermination – the Muslim population – and we have to keep voicing these tragic events so that they may not be absorbed and forgotten in the pretext of larger massacres such as that of Srebrenica in 1995. I am currently in my last year of University studies, majoring in International Studies, and I wish to continue my fight on a larger political playing field, where I can demand proper justice for each and every death – each and every forgotten statistic. I wish to put a face to the number and have people remember what happened from 1992-1995 across Bosnia and Herzegovina, so that we do not repeat the same mistakes in the future. Peace still remains very elusive in Bosnia, and some of the rhetoric coming from politicians does not indicate a very optimistic future.

For more on the Zaklopaca massacre, see the Srebrenica Genocide Blog.

Friday, 12 February 2010 Posted by | Balkans, Bosnia, Former Yugoslavia, Genocide, Serbia | , , , | 2 Comments

Was Jasenovac worse than Auschwitz ?

In our last post, we remarked upon the activities of the Serbian revisionist author Jasa Almuli, who has for many years been attempting to whitewash the role of the Serbian quisling regime of Milan Nedic in the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews. But Almuli’s revisionism is not limited to the history of the Serbian quislings. He has now gone on record to downplay the evil of even the most infamous of Nazi death camps, Auschwitz, by comparing it favourably to the Ustasha (Croat fascist) death-camp of Jasenovac. In an interview with the Serbian daily Politika earlier this week, Almuli stated:

‘I have concluded that Jasenovac in the Ustasha Independent State of Croatia was a much more terrible death camp than Auschwitz in occupied Poland, that largest Nazi execution-site.’

His argument is that the Nazis treated the Auschwitz inmates more humanely than the Ustashas treated the inmates at Jasenovac. Thus he claims that ‘the Germans in Auschwitz endeavoured that the victims, to the last moment, not discover that they will be asphyxiated in gas chambers and burned in crematoria, in order that their industrial means of killing not be disrupted. The Croatian Ustashas openly killed in the most bestial manner, with their own hands, knives, iron bars and very rarely with bullets…’. Furthermore, ‘In Auschwitz it was determined what every guard was or was not allowed to do, while in Jasenovac every Ustasha could torture and kill as they wished.’

It should not be necessary to point out the tendentious nature of Almuli’s comparison. According to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, 56-97,000 people were murdered at Jasenovac, whereas 1.1 million were murdered at Auschwitz. As a killing centre, thefore, Jasenovac was simply not in the same league as Auschwitz. As for Almuli’s portrayal of Auschwitz as a place where the camp authorities protected the victims from unnecessary suffering and abuse in the interest of industrial order; he presumably has never heard of Auschwitz camp doctor Josef Mengele and his human experiments. According to one account:

‘Dr. Josef Mengele, nicknamed The Angel Of Death, and the other Nazi doctors at the death camps tortured men, women and children and did medical experiments of unspeakable horror during the Holocaust. Victims were put into pressure chambers, tested with drugs, castrated, frozen to death. Children were exposed to experimental surgeries performed without anesthesia, transfusions of blood from one to another, isolation endurance, reaction to various stimuli. The doctors made injections with lethal germs, sex change operations, removal of organs and limbs. He carried out twin-to-twin transfusions, stitched twins together, castrated or sterilized twins. Many twins had limbs and organs removed in macabre surgical procedures, performed without using an anesthetic. At Auschwitz Josef Mengele did a number of medical experiments, using twins. These twins as young as five years of age were usually murdered after the experiment was over and their bodies dissected. Mengele injected chemicals into the eyes of the children in an attempt to change their eye color.’

In the words of the Holocaust Survivors and Remembrance Project website, ‘We say and write “Auschwitz”, but we actually mean a torture center, a terror that we cannot possibly conceive, the essence of evil and horror.’

For Almuli, this ‘terror that we cannot possibly conceive, the essence of evil and horror’ was much less terrible than what went on in Jasenovac; for him, the suffering of Dr Mengele’s victims less terrible than that of the victims of the Ustashas at Jasenovac, killed with knives and iron bars.

Those of us who have not experienced the horror of Auschwitz or Jasenovac cannot know what it was like; we certainly cannot say that the suffering of the victims at one camp was ‘much less terrible’ than that of the victims of the other. One cannot help but think that Almuli’s favourable comparison of Auschwitz to Jasenovac has less to do with attempting an accurate historical evaluation, and more to do with scoring Serb-nationalist points against the Croats.

Hat tip: Sladjana Lazic of A Slice of Serbian Politics.

Thursday, 11 February 2010 Posted by | Anti-Semitism, Balkans, Croatia, Former Yugoslavia, Genocide, Jews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jasa Almuli finally admits Serbian Nazi-quisling regime’s role in Holocaust

Jasa Almuli, former president of the Serbian Jewish community, has finally admitted that the World War II Nazi-quisling regime in Serbia under Milan Nedic participated in the Holocaust. He wrote in the Serbian daily newspaper Vecernje novosti last month:

‘The role of the Nedic regime in the destruction of the Serbian Jews was evil and dirty, but it was only an accessory one.’

This represents a significant retreat on the part of Almuli, who has repeatedly gone on record to defend the Nedic regime’s record vis-a-vis the Jews and to deny that it played any role in the Holocaust whatsoever. For example, Almuli claimed in a letter to the Sunday Telegraph on 27 February 1994:

‘As one of the few Serbian Jews who survived the Holocaust I can testify that the Serbian government of Milan Nedic under German military occupation did not “manage to deport every Serbian Jew to face the Holocaust”, as Tom Carter alleged (letter, February 20). The deportation of Jews in Serbia and their complete destruction was a crime exclusively committed by the Nazi Germans. They alone deported the Jews and killed them in camps they established in Serbia.’

The apparent paradox, of why a former senior Serbian Jewish official should be so intent on whitewashing a Serbian regime that participated in the Holocaust, is something that I have explained at length.

Almuli’s retreat represents a slap in the face to others who have attempted to rehabilitate Nedic’s Nazi-quisling regime, such as amateur historian Carl Savich of the Serb-nationalist website, who has written:

‘The Serbian case is more akin to the Judenrat or Jewish Councils which the Nazi occupation forces established in Nazi-occupied Poland and the Soviet Union. These were administrative bodies composed of Jewish political and religious leaders in the Jewish community who were responsible for local government in the ghettoes. The German authorities made the councils responsible for organizing lists of Jews, deportations, and labor recruitment. The Judenrat was imposed by force. There was no choice involved. Similarly with Serbia, the regime Germany established in Serbia had no choice in the matter. They were not allies or loyal partners as Ante Pavelic was. The goal was to preserve the Serbian population. It was known as the government of “salvation”. Like the Judenrat, the alternative was even more brutal Nazi measures against the population.’

Nevertheless, Almuli’s admittance of Nedic’s Serbia’s involvement in the Holocaust is simply a disclaimer in a series of articles in which Almuli otherwise seeks once again to defend the Serbian quisling record. Even this disclaimer – buried in the sixth article of a thirteen-part series – is couched as a plea for mitigation; Nedic’s Serbia played an ‘evil and dirty’ role in the Holocaust, ‘but it was only an accessory one’.

Furthermore, in his series of articles for Vecernje novosti entitled ‘The destruction of the Serbian Jews’, Almuli claims: ‘The killers were only Germans’. This is a falsehood; as I have documented, both Nedic’s Serbian quislings and Draza Mihailovic’s Chetniks were guilty of murdering Jews. Moreover, in a total of thirteen articles, Almuli manages to avoid discussion of the Serbian quisling role in the Holocaust – which he himself admits was ‘evil and dirty’ – almost entirely. Readers may compare his exercise in minimisation with what serious Serbian historians of the subject have written.

Finally, Almuli is continuing with his favourite tactic of attributing nefarious motives to anyone who has the nerve to raise the subject of quisling Serbia’s collaboration in the Holocaust, and on this occasion singles out for attack the Serbian human-rights activists of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia. As he puts it, ‘if they succeed in persuading the world that the Serbs together with the Germans killed Jews, they will more easily persuade it that in the wars in Bosnia and Croatia the Serbs again carried out ethnic cleansing.’

But of course, Serbian quislings did participate in the extermination of the Serbian Jews, and Serb forces did carry out ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Croatia – something almost nobody seriously attempts to dispute any more. The motive that Almuli attributes to the Serbian human-rights activists that he attacks is really the mirror image of his own motive, and the motive of other Serb nationalists and revisionists, for trying to brush the history of Serbian participation in the Holocaust under the carpet: ‘if they succeed in persuading the world that Serbian quislings did not assist the Germans in destroying the Jews of Serbia, they will more easily persuade it that in the wars in Bosnia and Croatia the Serbs were innocent of any wrongdoing.’

Fortunately, the Serbian nationalists and revisionists are failing in this goal.

PS Funnily enough, Vecernje novosti failed to publish the comment I attempted to post on the thread under Almuli’s series…

Update: Almuli’s revisionism is not limited to whitewashing Serbia’s Nazi collaborators; he has also gone on record to downplay the evil of the Auschwitz death-camp itself.

Monday, 8 February 2010 Posted by | Anti-Semitism, Balkans, Former Yugoslavia, Jews, Serbia | , , , , , , | Leave a comment