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By John Kraljić, Esq | Published  06/15/2007 | History | Unrated
Croatian Contributions Abroad

The Role of Other Ethnic Groups.

  One should note that other ethnic groups supported the Partisans in Croatia.  Ethnic Serbs formed the largest of the other ethnic groups.

Czechs and Slovaks, many of whom live in western and eastern Slavonia, became early supporters of the Partisans, as did some Hungarians.  In Istria, ethnic Italians also fought with the Partisans.  Other Italians from metropolitan Italy who had been part of the occupation forces, also joined the Partisans after Italy's capitulation.  These ethic groups joined in such numbers that the Partisans established separate military formations for them.  There was even a small contingent of Germans who had their own battalion.

Of interest are the Jews who had been imprisoned in the Italian camp of Kampor on Rab Island.  ZAVNOH succeeded in rescuing most of them prior to the German advance on the Island after Italy's capitulation.  While some support existed to establish a separate Jewish Battalion, it was ultimately determined not to do so as the men and women who would serve were physically weak from their time in the camp.  Others feared that the Battalion would become a specific target of German attacks.  Approximately 4,000 Jews ultimately fought in the National Liberation Army of Croatia, over 10% of the pre-war population of around 39,000 in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.  According to Nikola Anić, some have claimed that this represents the largest percentage of Jews who fought in any resistance force in occupied Europe during the War.

Croatian Contributions Abroad.  Croatia has historically been an emigrant nation.  Some have estimated that half as many Croats live abroad as in Croatia itself.  As a result, it comes as no surprise that Croatian immigrants and their descendants could be found in other Allied forces during the War.

Australia and New Zealand.  While Croatian immigrants served in the armed forces of both Australia and New Zealand, further research needs to be conducted on this topic.

Belgium.  According to Većeslav Holjevac (Hrvati izvan domovine (Croats Outside the Homeland), Zagreb: Matica Hrvatska, 1968, 2nd ed.), around 6,000 Croats lived in Belgium prior to World War II.  Holjevac claims that around 2,000 immigrants in Belgium from the former Yugoslavia participated in the Belgium underground, around 150 of whom served in two armed resistance units, the Đuro Đaković and Blagoje Parović, named after, respectively, a Croat and a Serb Communist leader.

Canada.  When World War II broke out, only between 15,000 and 20,000 Croats lived in Canada.  Anthony W. Rasporich in his For a  Better Life: A History of the Croatians in Canada, Toronto:  McClelland and  Stewart Ltd., 1982, writes that "[w]hile the Croatian-Canadian contributions of manpower were not nearly as heavy as the Croatian-American contributions, it must be  remembered that the community in Canada was much smaller and younger.   Since the bulk [of them] . . . had been in Canada less than fifteen years, the  Canadian sons of military age were few . . . ."  Nevertheless, Rasporich  notes that "the honour roll and nominal rolls of regimental histories in Canada indicate that the enlistment rates must have been significant."

Of particular interest is the recruitment of approximately thirty Croatian-Canadians by the Special Operations Executive (SOE).  The recruits for the most part had been members of or connected to the Communist Party and a number had been volunteers for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War.  The SOE tapped into this pool in order to establish initial contacts with Partisan forces as well to act as translators for the American and English military missions subsequently sent to Tito's headquarters as well as other regional Partisan military commands throughout Yugoslavia.  A number of American Croatians were also recruited for these missions.

France.  According to Holjevac (op. cit.), approximately 30,000 Croats lived in France prior  to the War, most of them working as coal miners.  A group of Croats distinguished themselves in the French Resistance.  These men included a number of former volunteers for the Republic during the Spanish Civil War.  They found themselves interred in camps in France after leaving Spain in 1939 as the Yugoslav government refused to allow them to return to the country.

The best known of these men was Ljubo Ilić.  Born in Split in 1905, Ilić joined the Communist Party in 1930 and lived in Paris where he studied architecture.  After leaving Spain in 1939, he remained imprisoned in French camps until September 1943 when he escaped and joined the Resistance.  He soon became the commander of all foreign forces in the Southern Zone and in  February 1944 became commander of all foreigners serving in the Resistance.  He thereafter served in the National Military Committee and the Headquarters of Internal Forces having the rank of General, under the name Louis Conty.  Ilić later served as Yugoslavia's ambassador  to a number of different countries (though he probably remains best know for marrying Zinka Milanov Kunc, a Croatian soprano with the Metropolitan Opera in New  York).

Of special interest is the revolt of approximately 500 Domobrani in Villefranche de Rouergue near Lyons.  The unit, which consisted of both Croats and Bosniaks (i.e., Croatian Moslems), had been incorporated by the Germans into an SS unit and sent to France for training purposes.  On 17 September 1943, they revolted and attempted to make contact with the French Resistance.  According to Radio London, Villefranche de Rouergue thus become the first town in Western Europe to be liberated during the War.  The Germans, unfortunately, quickly suppressed the revolt and sent most of the participants to concentration camps.  One of the leaders of the uprising, Božo Jelenek, a Croat born in Kutina, received the Legion d'Honneur for his efforts.  A monument to the revolt is located in the town and a street in the town (Avenue des Croates) honors the memory of these men.

Hungary.  A large group of ethnic Croats live in southern and western Hungary (recent estimates range from 15,000 to 90,000).  Holjevac generally states that ethnic Croats in Hungary fought with a resistance unit named after Sandor Petofi, but gives no further details.

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  It is known that some Croatian Communists who lived in the USSR prior to World War II served in the Red Army during the War.  Published literature also indicates that captured Croatian legionnaires who served under the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad either voluntarily or involuntarily were organized into a military force used by the Red Army.  The details of Croats who fought with the Red Army remain sketchy and needs to be further explored.

United States of America.  While the population of Croatians in the United States cannot be determined with accuracy, scholars have estimated that they totaled anywhere between 500,000 and 750,000 on the eve of World War II.  The number of Croats in the US who served in American Armed Forces during the War is unknown.  However, according to author Ivan Čizmić, the Croatian Fraternal Union (Hrvatska Bratska Zajednica) (CFU), the largest Croatian-American organization which boasted over 110,000 members in the late 1930s, had over 15,000 members who served in United States forces during the War, 308 of whom were killed.  Čizmić notes that the CFU also provided much financial support to the War effort (Ivan Čizmić, Hrvati u životu Sjedinjenih Američkih Država (Croats in the Life of the United States of America), Zagreb: Globus, 1982).

Croatian Americans who served include Petar (Peter) Tomich (1893-1941), the posthumous recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, America's highest award bestowed on its service personnel.  Born in Prolog, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tomich emigrated to the United States and entered the United States Navy in 1919.  He became chief water tender on the Navy's training ship, the USS Utah, berthed at Pearl Harbor on the day of the Japanese attack.  Tomich, while on duty in the ship's boiler room, made sure all other men in the area got out of the ship, losing his own life in the process.  Because of the inability of the US government to initially find Tomich's closest relatives, the Medal of Honor could not be officially presented to his living relatives until a ceremony held on a US Navy vessel off the coast of Split, Croatia in 2006.

What Others Have Written About Croatian Anti-Fascist Activities.  A number of English language sources provide eye-witness accounts about the scope and strength of the anti-fascist movement in Croatia.

The Italian Capitulation.  Milovan Djilas, a member of the Central Committee of the CPY, visited Otočac, the headquarters of the Partisans in Croatia at the time, in 1943 after Italy's capitulation.  He describes the effects of the capitulation in his work Wartime, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977, p. 330:  "In Lika, in Otočac, everything was turned around. Our units had disarmed two Italian armies and liberated  practically the entire coast.  The booty in weapons, food and motorized  vehicles exceeded all imagination, if not all hope.  Croats from the Littoral, from the islands, from Istria were joining the Partisan army.  Old units were being filled with fresh manpower, inexperienced but vigorous.  New units were formed on the basis of experience and around a corps of experienced men."

Fitzroy Maclean, the head of the British military mission posted to the General Headquarters of Partisan forces in Yugoslavia in 1943, left headquarters toward the coast after the capitulation and noted his impressions in the hinterland of Brela, near the village of Zadvarje in his work Eastern Approaches, London: Jonathan Cape, 1949, pp. 360-61:  "The village for which we were bound lay on some flat ground at the top of the next range of hills.  There were, it appeared, Germans quartered in it.  The house we were looking for was a farm on the outskirts of the village.  The rest of us lay behind a hedge while one of the Partisans went and knocked on the door. . . .  Finally, after much whispering, a tall, gaunt elderly man in a cloth cap emerged, with long drooping moustaches, and a rifle slung over his bent shoulders.  He was, it seemed, the Partisans' chief contact-man in the village, where, under the nose of the Germans, he  conducted his own miniature underground movement. . . . [H]e led a clandestine, surreptitious existence, full of nerve racking episodes such as this.  . .  .  Here and there stood the remains of a peasant's cottage, its blackened stones an eloquent reminder of the results of Italian military government.  Then, rounding a corner, we came upon a church and three or four houses round it, and a group of Partisans with tommy-guns standing in the roadway.  We  had reached Zadvarje  our immediate destination."

Istria.  Peter Wilkinson, a member of the SOE, discusses his trip from Slovenia back to Croatia, in early 1944 during which he passed through parts of western Istria, near the town of Umag, in his Foreign Fields: The Story of an SOE Operative, London: I.B. Tauris Publishers, 1997, p. 175: "I wanted to form some idea of the Partisan organization in Istria which was of obvious strategic importance and not yet been reported on by a British officer.  From Vodice we skirted Trieste and made our way across hilly country in the direction of Umago [Umag] at the north-western tip of the Istrian peninsula.  The Trieste-Pola [Pula] railway, like the main roads, was only lightly patrolled and we crossed both without incident.  Early on the morning of 23 February we arrived at Petrovija, a small village only about five miles from the sea.  This was a mainly Slavic community and the village boys had organized themselves into a Partisan Odred [Unit].  That afternoon we were disturbed by the arrival of the Odred commander, a burly youth of about seventeen who had escaped from a convoy taking him to forced labour in Germany.  He  reported that he and his section had that morning ambushed a party of Germans on the Trieste-Pola [Pula] road and had taken prisoner four Mongols and a German.  He had brought the latter with him to show us.  This was the worst possible news for it meant that the Germans were almost certain to send out a retaliatory expedition during the next twenty-four hours and that all able-bodied villagers would be obliged to take to the hills.  Even the old and sick who were left  behind might be taken hostage and we could certainly not remain where we were.  Meanwhile the young Maquisards insisted on my seeing their  prisoner.  He was a farmboy from Schleswig-Holstein aged about nineteen who stood there blindfolded. . . .  I urged his captors to take him up to the main road and set him free.  However, they were proud of their prisoner who was the first German they had captured and one of the escort assured me that he would shortly be posted to the Thirteenth Battalion.'  This seemed to reassure the prisoner but I knew that this grisly euphemism meant that the Partisans would shoot him as soon as we left."

Partisan Government and Territory in Croatia.  A number of sources describe the extent of the Partisan-controlled territory and government in Croatia.  Milovan Djilas, a member of the Central Committee of the CPY, describes his impressions when he visited Otočac in 1943 in his work Wartime, p. 314:  "Nowhere was a power structure as conspicuous and as real as on this liberated territory.  It was evident not only in the better dress and food  of the staffs and agencies, but also in the official bureaucratic mode of operation.  ZAVNOH . . . was headed by my former prison mate Pavle Gregorić, a long-time Communist; it had every appearance of an assembly and a  government, though Gregorić was as accommodating and as informal as one could wish.  All kinds of schools were operating; agencies exchanged reports and circulars."

Franklin Lindsay, a member of the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA, made similar observations.  After spending some time in Slovenia, he went to Topusko, Croatia in 1944 where ZAVNOH then had its headquarters:  "Unlike in Stajerska [Slovenia], in Croatia the Partisans held very large areas of liberated territory.  Here the revolutionary political  organization was significantly more advanced.  The forces were larger and  better armed, and I now had the opportunity to see for myself the next step in  the progress of Partisan political and military organization."  Franklin Lindsay, Beacons in the Night: With the OSS and Tito's Partisans  in Wartime Yugoslavia, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993, p. 219.  Elsewhere, Lindsay notes that "Life in Topusko was positively luxurious compared to Stajerska.  The Croatian Partisan headquarters remained there for the nearly two months of my  stay. Topusko had been a spa of sorts and the hot mineral baths were still  working. . . .  Food was plentiful, though it was mostly bread, meat and potatoes."  (p. 231).

Support from the Catholic Church.  Fitzroy Maclean describes the support the Catholic clergy gave to the Partisans when he visited Korčula after Italy's capitulation in later 1943:  "Answering some questions and avoiding others, we made our way, followed by an excited, gesticulating crowd which increased in size as we went along, through the winding streets of the town to the old Venetian palace which housed the new rulers.  Over the doorway the Lion of St. Mark's stood headless, decapitated by some over-zealous Partisan, anxious evidently to celebrate the end of Mussolini's rule by destroying the symbol of an earlier period of Italian domination.  We went in, through a magnificent colonnade and up a fine Renaissance staircase, and we entered to find ourselves face to face with a Franciscan friar, who rose to greet us with the clenched fist  salute.  He was, he said, the Chairman of the Odbor, the local Soviet. . .  .  Other isolated incidents remain ineradicably impressed on my  memory.  I remember being pelted with flowers by nuns.  . . .   [H]ere the priests in most of the villages on Korčula seemed to be leading  lights in the Partisan Movement."  (pp. 367-70).

Communist Suppression of Other Anti-Fascist Forces.  Franklin Lindsay describes in his memoirs how the Communist Party worked to end the influence of the HSS as the War drew to a close:  "OSS was increasingly interested in political developments in Croatia.  The Partisan political organization in Croatia was well established.  The steps by which the Partisan movement was becoming the de facto government of Croatia and all of Yugoslavia were carefully planned.  A part of their strategy was to get rid of all remaining elements of prewar political parties that might contest their drive to total power. . . .  Because [Maček] was held in such high respect among Croats, Maček was potentially a major obstacle to the consolidation of Partisan power in Croatia. . . .  A violent smear campaign against Maček and other Peasant Party leaders as German collaborators, was in full cry when I arrived in Croatia. . . .  After hearing the anti-Maček propaganda for several days, I asked Vladimir Bakarić what actual evidence they had on him.  His response was that the only thing they had against Maček was that he had not openly supported the Partisans.  There was no evidence of collaboration with the Germans or Pavelić."  (pp. 232-34).


Monuments and Other Sources of Victims.  The primary and most easily available source of Croatians killed by Nazi and Fascist forces are the many monuments which were raised to their memory throughout Croatia.

In the early part of the present decade, I became intrigued by these monuments.  Partly, my interest stemmed from the many news reports in Croatia's media which discussed the vandalism to which the monuments became subjected to.  Croatia's Association of Anti-Fascist Veterans (Savez antifašističkih boraca i antifašista Republike Hrvatske  or SAB), a newly formed entity which took the place of the old  Alliance of United Veterans of the National Liberation War (Savez udruženja boraca Narodno-oslobodilačkog rata) (SUBNOR) to represent the interests of Croatia's Partisan Veterans, especially became active in bringing this issue to the attention of the press.  Certainly such vandalism has occurred; however, it is important to note that some members of the SAB included under the rubric of "vandalism" restorations of some of the monuments to encompass Croatian victims of all Wars, or which removed the Communist red star and/or added Christian or national symbols.

The vandalism to which these monuments were subjected to had political motivations.  This appears to be especially the case in areas which were subject to Serbian occupation in the 1991-95 period.  Outside of these areas, vandalism was concentrated in certain areas while in others the monuments have been restored.

I determined to try to photograph as many of these monuments as possible.  Given that many of them provide information on victims, these photographs form a large part of the basis for the information found below.

The monuments themselves take many forms.  Generally, they can be found in town squares, quite often next to the local parish church, in front of schools and at crossroads.  Most are simple square walls on which are mounted marble plaques where names are listed.  Local cemeteries also have monuments and, in some cases, "Partisan cemeteries" where the remains of those killed have been buried.

In addition to general monuments, there are other monuments which mark the sites of specific events, battles or executions.

A number of publications also list victims killed during the War.  The publications cover specific localities and, unfortunately, there are many localities which have not been covered by similar published works.

Given the above, the lists provided in this work are necessarily limited by the scope of the author's travels in Croatia and his access to relevant published works.  While the lists are not complete, they will hopefully mark a start toward preparing a comprehensive lists for all victims from Croatia killed during World War II.

Errors.  It should be noted that one comes across mistakes or contradictions in the spelling of names and dates when comparing certain monuments and published books.

One should further note that a number of victims died after the end of general hostilities in May 1945.  These people generally died from wounds or other trauma suffered during the War, though one cannot exclude the possibility that they were killed in the efforts to stamp out guerilla resistance by small bands of Chetniks and Ustashe in back country regions of Croatia.

The Categorization of Victims.  Communist authorities distinguished between "Fallen Partisans" (Pali borci) and "Victims of Fascist Terror" (Žrtve fašističkog terora).  While clearly those killed in battle were classified as fallen Partisans, sometimes the label included those executed by the Nazis and Fascists who served as underground workers or in the NOO.  These decisions seem to have been made on an ad hoc basis, and could be tied to the fact that the determinations were made by local commissions.  Their decisions could have been influenced by Communist Party membership of the victim or familial ties.  As can be seen below, in some cases, earlier decisions were reversed.  Presumably, the families of those who received the classification of Pali borci obtained greater financial benefits than those who were Victims of Fascist Terror.

In addition, from time to time one also comes across the designation "Victims of War" (Žrtve rata).  The designation is not common and generally refers to those killed as an accident of war (e.g., due to bombings, stepping on mines, etc.).  Sometimes, such Victims are included as Victims of Fascist Terror and sometimes they are not.

What are "People's Heroes"?  Some of the monuments and "official" histories from the Communist period use the term Narodni Heroj or "People's Hero" in describing certain people killed during the War.  The first award of the title People's Hero to a Partisan killed during the War occurred in 1942.  An order issued by Tito as the Chief Commander of the National Liberation Army and Partisan Forces of Yugoslavia (NOV and POJ) on 15 August 1943 formalized the award, stating that it is to be provided to a person who has "demonstrated heroic works on the field of battle and a heroic stance in the face of the enemy."  It became one of the most important titles bestowed during Communist Yugoslavia.  A total of 1,312 People's Heroes were proclaimed by Communist authorities, including a number of foreigners.  The title seems to have been only given to members of the Communist Party and, quite often, was limited to those killed during the War.

A total of 282 people from Croatia (almost 22% of the total) received the designation People's Hero, the largest number from any Republic in the former Yugoslavia.

Ethnic Composition of the List.  The goal of this study is to set forth the names and certain other available identifying data of ethnic Croats killed during World War II.  Of course, not all the names listed are those of ethnic Croats.  However, the list for the most part will be limited to towns and villages where ethnic Croats predominated or were the exclusive ethnic group.  It should be noted that the lists from more ethnically diverse larger towns and cities contain a number of non-ethnic Croats.

Duplicate Names.  Some names and information in the text will be duplicated.  Usually, a person will be listed under the locality from which he originated or lived.  In some cases, the same person may appear in another monument or list based on where or the method by which he or she died (e.g., those killed in camps or executed).

Monuments to Victims of Communism.  Since 1990, the extent of crimes committed by Communists during and after World War II has no longer been a taboo within Croatia.  As a result, a number of monuments have appeared to honor those victims.  To date, such monuments are not extensive.  A number have been placed in various parish and other churches to honor local priests.  The author has included such monuments in the text, though the available information included for such victims remains far from  complete.

Division of Text.  The text is divided by separate Counties or Županija in Croatia.  Within each County, specific localities are listed in alphabetical order.

Abbreviations Used in the Text.

KPH                Communist Party of Croatia (Komunistička partija Hrvatske)

NDH                Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska)

NOVH             National Liberation Army of Croatia (Narodnooslobodilačka Vojska Hrvatska)

NOVJ              National Liberation Army of Yugoslavia (Narodnooslobodilačka Vojska Jugoslavija)

SKOJ              Alliance of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia (Savez komunističke omladine Jugoslavije)

ZAVNOH        Territorial Antifascist Council for the National Liberation of Croatia (Zemaljsko antifašističko vijeće narodnogoslobođenja Hrvatske)

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