From Jasenovac to Yugoslavism: Ethnic persecution in Croatia during World War II
AuthorAdeli, Lisa M.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractDuring World War II, the Croatian ultra-nationalist Ustasa persecuted nearly two million Serbs, Jews, and Roma in the Independent State of Croatia, a state that included present-day Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. The Ustasa-run Jasenovac concentration camp became a lasting symbol of ethnic persecution. Political analysts today often cite this genocide as proof that ethnic violence and fragmentation within the region are inevitable. However, an equally important reality is that within just four years, Ustasa excesses had provoked a widespread popular reaction against the violence and against the national exclusivity that inspired it. Although many people in Croatia and Bosnia initially celebrated the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1941 and supported the declaration of Croatian independence, the Ustasa's brutal treatment of minority groups quickly alienated much of the population. Opposition to ethnic persecution took many forms, including assisting people targeted by the government, hiding victims or helping them to escape from the country, aiding prisoners of the regime, and, occasionally, publicly protesting discriminatory measures. Within the concentration camps as well, prisoners of different ethnic backgrounds came together in food sharing and newsgathering cooperatives in a common effort to survive. This rejection of ethnic violence served to discredit the extreme Croatian nationalism represented by the Ustasa--and also its Serbian counterpart represented by the Cetniks. The result was a resurgence of Yugoslavism, a renewed emphasis on the interdependence of Serbs, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, and others. Opposition to ethnic persecution also fueled the expansion of the Partisan resistance and shaped the character of that movement, causing its leaders to develop a program of ethnic equality and a federally organized postwar government. The ideology of Yugoslav unity transformed the Partisans into a popular movement, allowing the Partisans to triumph over both the Serbian domination of the prewar Yugoslav kingdom and the fratricidal violence of the Independent State of Croatia. Thus, people's reaction against atrocities in Croatia during World War II had important consequences for the entire region. The issues of ethnic violence, conflicting concepts of nationalism, and resistance are interrelated and, when considered together, give a fuller picture of developments in Yugoslav history.
Degree ProgramGraduate College