CROATIA: MYTH AND REALITY
C. Michael McAdams

Post-War Accountability

After World War II, the Communist Yugoslav government set the total demographic losses for all of Yugoslavia from all causes at 1,700,000. The figure was never verified and was contradicted by demographic data comparisons between the Yugoslav census of 1931 and 1948. Nevertheless, this figure, which included natural mortality and decreased birth rate, was presented to the West German government for war reparations.

At the same time, the Belgrade media began circulation of the figure 750,000 Jews, Gypsies and Serbs killed in Croatia during the War. By 1958 the number 750,000 was used to describe losses at a single camp, Jasenovac. Such high numbers were used not only to gain additional war reparations from Germany, but also to legitimatize the communist government's role in saving the peoples of Yugoslavia from the horrors of nationalism.

Germany refused to accept the 1.7 million figure and demanded documentation. On June 10, 1964, the Yugoslav government secretly ordered that for the first time the exact statistics regarding war victims be assembled. The task was completed in the Socialist Republic of Croatia by the Center for the Scientific Documentation of the Institute for the History of the Workers' Movement in Zagreb. By early November, the data had been collected and were sent to the Federal Institute for Statistics in Belgrade.

When the data were tabulated, excluding Axis forces, the actual figure was 597,323 deaths for all of Yugoslavia. Of these, 346,740 were Serbians and 83,257 were Croatians. These figures excluded the deaths of any person who died fighting for the Cetnik, Ustase, regular Croatian Army, Slovenian Home Guards or who served in the German or Italian Armies. The government returned the data for retabulation, and the figures were confirmed and provided to Germany.

Data Made Public

In July of 1969, Bruno Busic, an associate at the Center for Scientific Documentation, published data from the 1964 study showing that 185,327 people were thought to have died of all causes in Croatia during the War and that 64,245 may have died in German or Croatian prisons or concentration camps. In September of that year the maga zine that published the data was banned and Busic was arrested in 1971. After serving two years in prison, he escaped to Paris where he wrote several monographs on political prisoners in Croatia. He was murdered in Paris in October 1978 by the Yugoslav Secret Police (UDBa).

In 1985, the Serbian scholar Bogoljub Kocovic published a major scholarly research work which put the figure for total demographic losses in all of Yugoslavia at 1,985,000 of which 971,000 were war- related. Of these 487,000 were Serbs killed anywhere in Yugoslavia by any side including Germans, Italians, Croatians, Albanians, Hungarians, Soviets, American bombing or by other Serbs. Kocovic concluded that some 125,000 Serbs and 124,000 Croatians died in Croatia during World War II. Kocovic also noted what many previous demographers had ignored. The first post-war census was taken in 1948 and he wrote: "it is fully justified to take into account these post- war victims of communist terror," in reference to the thousands of Croatians slaughtered in late 1945 and 1946 in what have come to be called the Bleiburg Massacres.

In 1989 The Yugoslav Victimological Society and the Zagreb Jewish Community published what is now considered the definitive work by Vladimir Zerjavic which set total war losses at 1,027,000 of which 530,000 were Serbs and 192,000 Croatians. 131,000 Serbs and 106,000 Croatians were listed as having died of all war-related causes in Croatia.

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Edición electrónica de Studia Croatica, 1998