The activity of Aloysius Stepinac in the Independent State of Croatia (1941—1945)
After World War I the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was created with the aim to federate the Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian, Montenegrin and Macedonian population, and where all people would have equal rights [2; 219]. Nevertheless internal problems, caused by complicated coexistence of different ethnic and religious groups, led to serious conflicts and separatism across the population, including the Croats whose independence was supported by the Croatian Party of Rights, headed by the nationalist Ante Pavelic, who founded in 1929 the revolutionary organization «The Ustase». On April 10th, 1941 with the support of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy the Ustase declared the creation of the Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska; NDH) - a quasi-state which conducted terror against non-Croatian nationalities and made Catholicism the state religion. During that time the Catholic Church in Croatia was headed by the Archbishop of Zagreb Alojzije Stepinac, whose part in the history of NDH raises many questions.
Alojzije Stepinac was born on May 8th, 1898, in the village of Brezarica in Croatia in the family of Josip and Barbara Stepinac. Shortly after his graduation from high school in June 1916, Stepinac was drafted to fight in World War I as an Austrian officer on the Italian front where he was wounded and taken prisoner of war in Italy. In 1919, he enrolled in the Faculty of Agronomy at the University of Zagreb. Dissatisfied with studies, he returned to farming at home where he became involved in the activities of the Catholic youth. In October, 1924, he made the decision to become a priest. Recognizing his capabilities and devotion to the Church, the then Archbishop of Zagreb, Antun Bauer, sent Alojzije Stepinac to Rome. From 1924 to 1931, Stepinac had been studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University where he completed his Doctorate in Philosophy and Theology. He was ordained as a priest on October 26th, 1930, and four years after Pope Pius XI nominated Alojzije Stepinac as the Archbishop’s Coadjutor. On December 1937, Archbishop Bauer died and the young Bishop Alojzije Stepinac took over the administration of the Zagreb Archdiocese.
On April 10th, 1941, the new Independent State of Croatiaemerged, a dream come true for most Croatians, includingthe Archbishop, who had yearned for a free and independent Croatia. On April 28th he publishedan encyclical, which appealed all Catholics to support the Ustase regime. Since April the Ustase government had embarked on a policy of terror against the Orthodox Serbs, Jews and Gypsies. For example, on May 2nd, 1941 in the village Otocak 331 serbs were forced to dig a hole, and after that all of them were hacked to death with axes[1; 64]. This could influence on the opinion of Stepinac about the Ustase, since in May he refused to help Ante Pavelic with the establishment diplomatic relations between NDH and the Vatican. Ante Pavelic put pressure on the Catholic Church in Zagreb and on Archbishop Stepinac to write to Pope Pius XII with a request for the official recognition of the Independent State of Croatia. On July 11th, 1941, Stepinac received the response from the Vatican in which the Archbishop was informed that the Holy See had a long standing rule that a new state that was formed during wartime could not be officially recognized by the Holy See while war continued. Only after peace the Holy See would grant recognition of that state[4; 32].
It stands to mention that the relationship between Pavelic and Archbishop Stepinac was tense on several accounts: for example, no «Te Deum» was sung at the cathedral on the occasion of Pavelic’s birthday. The animosity between the two was also recognized in Pavelic’s conduct: he attended service at the Zagreb Cathedral only once in four years. Another issue of contention was Stepinac’s active discouragement of the clergy from joining the Ustase movement.
Nevertheless, Stepinac’s support of the Ustase regime was due to the fact that the Ustase made Catholicism the state religion. Until 1941 the Croatian Catholic Church hadbeen harassed as monarchical regime in Yugoslavia had preferred the Serbian Orthodox Church. It is clear that almost all Croatian catholic priests and their congregate supported the Ustase dictatorship.
Many researchers argue about the part played by Stepinac in the salvation of the Serbs and Jews. It was already mentioned that after the declaration of independence of Croatia the terror against the Orthodox Serbs began. One of the historical problems is connected with the forced conversion to Catholicism. Some historians believe that it was the act of salvation. It is known that Pavelic wanted to turn NDH into the world’s only country which’s population would consist of only strong Catholics. On November 17th, 1941 a Conference of the catholic bishopric was held. Its chairman Stepinac made a decision to convert the Orthodox Serbs into Catholics. Unfortunately, we cannot determine the exact number of the converted as this information was destroyed by the Ustase.
Concerning the Jewish issue, the Yugoslavian researcher with Jewish origin Esther Gitman maintains that through direct action and instructions to clergymen and more indirectly through his sermons in which he condemned the implementation of the Racial Laws, Stepinac saved several hundreds of the Jewish people[3; 57]. We can make an example of Olga Rajsek Neumann, a non- Jewish woman, who saved her nephew Danko Shtockhammer from the camp in Bakovo, after she had reached out to a parish priest, who promised to talk about it with Stepinac. After several days the boy was transferred to a catholic orphanage, where he stayed until the end of the war.
On May 1945 Yugoslav liberation forces entered Zagreb. Stepinac was arrested on May 17th, however initially instead of the court there was a personal meeting with Josip Broz Tito, who intended with the help of Stepinac to establish good relations with the Holy See, but Stepinac, who hated communists, refused. On September 18th, 1946 he was arrested again on a charge of collaboration and subversive activity against Yugoslavia. In late September the trial began. On October 10th the judges of the Zagreb Tribunal found Stepinac guilty and sentenced him to 16 years in prison. He spent only 5 years instead of 16 in prison in the town Lepoglava and was released in 1951. He was exiled to his native Krazic, where he spent time by writing sermons and keeping a correspondence with congregate. Alojzije Stepinac died on February 18th, 1960 and was buried in the Zagreb Cathedral. In 1998 Pope John Paul II beatified Cardinal Stepinac, which wasn’t supported by many Serbian organizations.
Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac and his catholic clergymen supported the dictatorship of Ante Pavelic and the Ustase. Undoubtedly in this regime Stepinac supported the independence of the Croats and the high role of the Catholic Church, not the bloody policy because even in his sermons he stressed that all people without any exception are equal.
1. Ривели, М. А. Архиепископ геноцида. Монсеньор Степинац, Ватикан и усташская диктатура в Хорватии 1941—1945 / Марк Аурелио Ривели; Пер. с сербс. П. Тихомирова. - Москва:, 2011. - 224 с.
2. Югославия в XX веке: Очерки политической истории / Ответ.ред-р К. В. Никифоров. - Москва: «Индрик», 2011. - 888 с.
3. Gitman, Esther. A Question of Judgment: Dr. Alojzije Stepinac and the Jews/ Esther Gitman //Review of Croatian History, sv.II br.1 sijecanj, 2007. - P. 47—72.
4. Phayer, Michael. The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930—1965 / Michael Phayer. - Indiana University Press, 2000. - 323.
Аннотация. In the article the author analyses the part in the history of the Independent State of Croatia played by the Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac. The author emphasizes the complexity of this person as he not only supported the Ustase regime but also fought against the Serbian and Jewish Genocide.
Ключевые слова: the Ustase, Genocide, Alojzije Stepinac, Croatia, holocaust, Vatican, Ante Pavelic, nationalism, clergy, Catholicism.
А. А. Пройдаков
|Опубликовано 15.04.2021 22:10 | Просмотров: 155 | Блог » RSS|