Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

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.

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

Nationalism and cowardice

GlavasWe have commented here on more than one occasion on the less than fearless character of our contemporary South East European chauvinists, Serbs and Croats alike. Whether they were forgoing resistance in order to collaborate with the Nazis and Fascists in World War II, beating defenceless prisoners and raping women in camps in the 1990s, fleeing before enemy armed forces or trying to evade trial at The Hague, the national chauvinists have, for the most part, exhibited cowardice as a defining feature. Indeed, the cowardice of chauvinists is often in proportion to their greed for territorial expansion.

So far as the Great Croat chauvinists are concerned, one of their defining moments came in May 1941, when the Ustasha leader Ante Pavelic, newly installed at the head of the Nazi-puppet ‘Independent State of Croatia’, signed a treaty that ceded without struggle a large part of the Croatian coast to Fascist Italy. He then proceeded to try to divert the popular anger of the outraged Croatian public away from the Italians and against the apparently defenceless Serb civilian population of the Croatian puppet state – only to find that his anti-Serb genocidal campaign generated a popular resistance, among Serbs and others, that his sorry armed forces were incapable of suppressing, leading him to ever-greater acts of grovelling dependency on his German and Italian masters. Pavelic and his fellow leading Ustasha murderers fled the country in 1945, leaving the remnants of the puppet Croatian army and the civilians who had remained loyal to it to bear the brunt of Partisan retaliation.

Franjo Tudjman, the next chauvinistic despot to rule Croatia, did not approach Pavelic’s degree of murderousness, but he was his equal when it was a question of grovelling to the strong while mercilessly persecuting the weak. Tudjman was terrified at the prospect of taking on Serbia and the Yugoslav People’s Army, and attempted to obstruct and defuse Croatian resistance efforts at every step, while seeking to reach a deal with Slobodan Milosevic at the expense of those further down the pecking order – above all, the Bosnian Muslims. This involved offering Milosevic and the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic bits of Croatian or Croat-inhabited Bosnian territory in exchange for other bits of Bosnian territory. This did not stop the Serbian aggression against Croatia, and Croatia was saved from military disaster and dismemberment only by the heroism of its ordinary defenders and by the military and political bankrupcty of the Great Serbian project. Operation Storm, and the liberation of Serbian-occupied central Croatia, came only after Tudjman had received assurances that it would incur neither a Yugoslav Army counter-offensive nor US displeasure. But just as Pavelic’s surrender to the Italians went hand in hand with his slaughter of Serb civilians, so Tudjman’s slavishness to Milosevic went hand in hand with his merciless campaign against Bosnia and the Muslims. Only naturally, the Bosnian Army, poorly armed though it was, proved more than a match for Tudjman’s Bosnian Croat proxies, and routed them all across Central Bosnia in 1993 until they were ignominiously rescued from defeat by US diplomacy.

After that, the very Great Croat chauvinists who had bravely slaughtered Muslim and Serb women, children and old people proved not quite so brave when it was a question of standing trial at The Hague and attempting to justify what they had done, and were quite ready to obstruct Croatia’s EU accession in order to save their own skins. This glorious tradition of evading imprisonment is now being continued by the Croatian politician and former warlord of the northern Croatian city of Osijek, Branimir Glavas. Glavas, who openly identifies with the World War II Ustasha movement, was sentenced by a Croatian court on 8 May to ten years’ imprisonment for war-crimes against Serb civilians, after which he fled Croatia to Bosnia, whose citizenship he possesses, and is now fighting an extradition battle, while ranting bombastically against the Croatian government and judiciary.

Not all nationalists or even all fascists are cowards, and the type of ‘patriotic’ mentality represented by individuals such as Tudjman and Glavas requires some explaining…

The Nationalist Coward’s Manifesto

1) Words count for more than deeds. The biggest patriot is the one who shouts most loudly about his nation. It really is as simple as that.

2) Ethics are for suckers. Only the naive really believe in principles such as ‘rights for ethnic minorities’, ‘inviolability of state borders’, ‘resistance to the occupiers’ and so forth, whereas the cunning one, unhampered by such delusions, has the edge when dealing with the naive. The nationalist coward wins by violating ethical rules and lying about it successfully.

3) The Raskolnikov syndrome. Since violating ethical rules gives one the edge, it is necessary for the nationalist coward to do this if he wants to achieve great things for his nation. Slaughtering civilians, destroying villages, transferring populations and the like, are an escapable part of nation-building, therefore of being a patriot.

4) Heroism is also for suckers. From steps 2) and 3) it follows that dying or even fighting for one’s nation against a superior enemy is also the pointless, stupid act of a naive hothead; much better for the nationalist coward coolly to reach an unethical, therefore ‘patriotic’ agreement with the occupier to get what he wants for his nation.

5) Being a patriot means being proud to be an arsehole. Since only by doing bad things can the nationalist coward serve his nation, he should not be ashamed to be accused of being a ‘war-criminal’, ‘dictator’, ‘fascist’, ‘Chetnik’, ‘Ustasha’, etc. He should take pride in such compliments ! In fact, he should act so as to provoke more of them…

6) To the victor, the spoils. Having served his nation by collaborating with the occupier and slaughtering civilians, it is only right that the nationalist coward should reward himself for his efforts, by expropriating the wealth of the state for himself and his family and friends, and by appropriating all power within it. A nation must reward its best sons, after all. To borrow a quip from Vuk Karadzic: the nationalist coward loves his country like a swine loves a forest full of acorns.

7) L’etat – c’est moi ! As one who has built his nation, the nationalist coward understands that the nation is simply an extension of his own ego. Consequently, unpatriotic elements who attack him for war-crimes, corruption or abuses of the legal or democratic processes are simply attacking the nation, and should be condemned on those grounds as aliens and traitors.

8 ) ‘Don’t worry, no-one will ever find out’. The nationalist coward realises that other people, particularly representatives of Western powers and members of his own public, are fundamentally stupid. The best way for him to get away with doing bad things is simply to pretend he is doing the opposite. For example, he can spend World War II collaborating with the Nazis, but pretend to be leading a resistance movement. Or he can offer to sell bits of his country to the enemy, while pretending to be defending it ! The cunning village huckster will always trick the clueless inhabitants of the big city.

9) You’ll never take me alive, copper ! Since patriotism requires that one violates an ethical rule or two, it is the worst possible affront to the nationalist coward when he is actually, finally, indicted for war-crimes. Why, he carried out these war-crimes because he sincerely believes in the principle that a patriot has the right and duty to do bad things. And now you’re telling him that he has to answer for these things before an unpatriotic court of law ? Never ! There’s nothing more patriotic than sacrificing one’s country to save oneself.

10) Za dom spremni !

Monday, 18 May 2009 Posted by | Balkans, Bosnia, Croatia, Former Yugoslavia, Serbia | , , , , , | Leave a comment