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(E) Bleiburg/Jasenovac article in The Independent
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  05/12/2003 | History | Unrated
(E) Bleiburg/Jasenovac article in The Independent

 

Bleiburg

Bleiburg: "It is a story that ought also to be well
known in Britain, because it was largely due to
British policies that the terrible events occurred."


The Independent
Croatians gather to mourn victims of 1945 atrocities
By Peter Popham
12 May 2003


Croatians stood in mourning at two separate places
yesterday. On the site of the most notorious
concentration camp run during the Second World War by
Croatia's Nazi regime, President Stipe Mesic expressed
his "deepest regret for the innocent victims of those
who tarnished Croatia's name".

It was the first time a Croatian head of state had
joined former inmates of the camp at Jasenovac and
others who commemorate the day in 1945 when 600
inmates tried to flee the camp where tens and perhaps
hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, gypsies and
anti-fascist Croats had been exterminated during the
war. Of the 600 who tried to break out, only about 70
succeeded.

Meanwhile, in the southern Austrian town of Bleiburg,
thousands of Croats gathered as they do every year to
mark one of the atrocities of the last months of the
war that is all but forgotten outside Croatia. Last
week, the Croatian government announced that it
planned to buy land in Austria on which to build a
permanent memorial to the horror. It is a story that
ought also to be well known in Britain, because it was
largely due to British policies that the terrible
events occurred.

In May 1945, hundreds of thousands of Croats, soldiers
in the army and civilians, congregated in Bleiburg
after fleeing the Croatian capital, Zagreb, before
Tito's advancing partisans. The Croatians believed,
without good reason, that they would be welcomed by
the British and Americans and allowed to surrender.
But at the Yalta conference of 1945, Stalin had made
clear that he required the repatriation of citizens of
Eastern Bloc countries. And since surrender was a
criminal act in the Soviet Union, those returned would
be subject to the death penalty.

Agreement was reached between the Soviets and the
British on the repatriation of Soviet citizens
"irrespective of whether the individuals desire to
return ... or not" according to the words of the
agreement.

As Tito had yet to fall out with Stalin, the same
policy applied in Yugoslavia. The Croatians gathered
at Bleiburg were duly sent back across the border by
British forces, on foot or by train. The killing by
the partisans began on 16 May 1945, and continued for
two years. No one knows how many died, but Croatian
sources quote figures between 100,000 and 250,000.

The atrocity was covered up as long as Tito's regime
lasted, but with the end of Communist rule in 1990,
Croats began abseiling into underground caves in
Slovenia and northern Croatia, long sealed by the
authorities, and finding thousands of corpses in mass
graves. 

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Comments
  • Comment #1 (Posted by Mark G. Spiranovic)

    The article tells the truth as it was in a very respectful manner, as if reporting as a neutral observer. To us Croatians who have lost fathers, grandfathers, and other relatives, the language is too soft and not strong enough in condemning the British who were expected to be fair in the treatment of the prisoners and that is why they gave themselves up to the British knowing that the Communists would not deal with them in humane manner.
     
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