If you thought that the German Nazis and SS were brutal, you haven't heard of the Ustashis. These guys enjoyed making the victims suffer before killing them. And they photographed the whole gory affair. In comparison the SS were saints.
Who were the Ustashi?
The Ustasha - Croatian Revolutionary Movement ( known collectively as Ustashi, but sometimes anglicised as Ustashe, Ustashas or Ustashi) was a Croatian anti-Yugoslav separatist movement. The ideology of the movement was blend of fascism, Nazism, Croatian ultranationalism, and Roman Catholic Clericalist Fundamentalism. The Ustashi functioned as a terrorist organization before World War II. In April 1941, they were appointed to rule a part of Axis-occupied Yugoslavia as the Independent State of Croatia, a puppet state of Nazi Germany. The Ustashi assisted the German occupation forces in Yugoslavia in fighting an increasingly unsuccessful campaign against the resistance forces, the Yugoslav Partisans, who were recognized in 1943 as the military of the Allied Yugoslav state. As German forces withdrew from Yugoslavia in 1945, the Ustashi were defeated, expelled, and eventually destroyed by the Yugoslav forces (the Partisans).
The Ustashi enacted race laws patterned after those of the Third Reich, which were aimed against Jews and Roma and Serbs, who were collectively declared enemies of the Croatian people. Serbs, Jews, Roma and Croatian anti-fascists, including Communist Croats and dissident Croat Byzantine Catholic priests, were interned in concentration camps, the largest of which was the Jasenovac complex, where many were killed by Ustashi militia. The exact number of victims is not known. The number of murdered Jews is fairly reliable: around 32,000 Jews were killed during World War II on NDH territory. Gypsies (Yugoslav Roma) numbered around 40,000 fewer after the war. Of the number of Serbs who died, estimates tend to vary between 300,000 and 700,000.
Avro Manhattan: "The Vatican's Holocaust", on page 35.
The caption under the photograph reads (quote):
A mass execution carried out by the Ustashi at Brode [near Vukovar], early in 1941. Nazi troops were looking at some of the victims.
The Nazis, who for a time were posted in Croatia, were so horrified at the Ustashi atrocities that they set up special commission to investigate them. The Orthodox Church of Serbia, in fact, appealed directly to the Nazi General Dukelman to intervene and stop the Ustashi horrors.
The Germans and the Italians managed to restrain the Ustashi while they were under their supervision. When the Nazis left Croatia, however, the Ustashi multiplied their atrocities, unrepremanded by the Government. Since the later's policy was one of the total elimination of the Orthodox Serbian population via forcible conversions, expulsion, or straightforward massacre.
Victims were executed in groups without trial on bridges and then thrown into the river. In May 1941 the Ustashi beseiged Glina. Having gathered together all the Orthodox males of over fifteen years of age from Karlovac, Sisak and Petrinja, they drove them outside the town and killed 600 of them with guns, knives and sledge hammers.
Serbian civilians forced to convert to Catholicism by the Ustasha
The Ustashi aimed at an ethnically "pure" Croatia, and saw the Serbs that lived in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina as the their biggest obstacle. Thus, Ustashi ministers Mile Budak, Mirko Puk, and Milovan Žanić declared in May 1941 that the goal of the new Ustashi policy was an ethnically clean Croatia. They also publicly announced the strategy to achieve their goal:
1. One third of the Serbs (in the Independent State of Croatia) were to be forcibly converted to Catholicism.
2. One third of the Serbs were to be expelled (ethnically cleansed).
3. One third of the Serbs were to be killed.
The Ustashi persecuted the Serbs who were mostly Orthodox Christians yet they were tolerant toward the Bosnian Muslims. Ustashi were against industrialization and democracy. The basic principles of the movement were laid out by Pavelić in his 1929 pamphlet "Principles of the Ustashi Movement".
A problem with the Nazi ideology was that the Croats are Slavs and were considered inferior to Aryans by Nazi standards. Ustasha ideology thus created a theory about a pseudo-Gothic origin of the Croats in order to raise their standing on the Aryan ladder.
Ustashi militia execute prisoners near the Jasenovac concentration camp
An Ustashi guard poses among the bodies of prisoners murdered in Jasenovac concentration camp
On June 6, 1941 Pavelic was received by Hitler in Berchtesgaden for a two-hour conference. Witnesses at the meeting were Marshal Hermann Goring and Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. The talk was one of a series of several carefully guarded diplomatic negotiations between Axis and Balkan leaders. The topic of the conversation was never disclosed, but it was believed that Pavelic asked for a guarantee of independence and was promised that Italy would do nothing drastic. Afterward Pavelic presented the Fuhrer with a flag from the Seven Years' War and a chess set, both formerly belonging to King Frederic the Great.
Barely returned from Germany, Dr. Pavelic, went to Venice for the induction of Croatia into the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo military alliance. On June 15 he put his signature to a protocol giving his country the right to be represented at any tripartite discussion which might affect Croatia.