It turns out that someone at the State Department knew all along that Croatia never answered for its Nazi past and shouldn’t just sail into the EU un-scrutinized and unreformed. Unfortunately, it’s a bit late. This former Under Secretary of State, Stuart Eizenstat, could have spoken up when Croatia was put on the fast-track in the mid-2000s, or even as late as last year, when the final stage of accession began; Croatia will be an EU member by mid next year.

Still, one is grateful for the following item from Thursday’s Haaretz (and please don’t be fooled by the paper’s — likely not Eizenstat’s — clumsy efforts at moral equivalence where there is none, via the strained insertion of Serbia):

EU should hold Croatia and Serbia accountable for Holocaust roles, says U.S. diplomat (June 21)

Former Under Secretary of State Stuart E. Eizenstat tells Haaretz in a wide-ranging interview that if Croatia wants to join the democratic body, it must follow rule of law and come to terms with its past.

By Mordechai I. Twersky

A leading U.S. diplomat and former ambassador to the European Union is calling on the EU to encourage Croatia and Serbia to take responsibility for their roles in the Holocaust before granting them EU membership.

“Now is the time for the European Union to exact the maximum amount of leverage,” said Stuart E. Eizenstat, a former U.S. under secretary of state, who served as the Clinton administration’s special representative on Holocaust-era issues. “Once they’re in, the leverage is lost.”

Eizenstat, who gave a wide-ranging interview to Haaretz while attending the President’s Conference in Jerusalem yesterday, noted that Croatia’s president, Ivo Josipovic, was also in attendance. He said Josipovic must go beyond his apology, issued last February, for his country’s role in the crimes committed against the Jews during the Second World War. He called on him to commence with a restitution program and the formation of an independent commission of international scholars to examine the country’s wartime past.

“Neither one of those is being done right now with respect to Croatia,” said Eizenstat, who has negotiated agreements with Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France and other European countries with regard to restitution of property, compensation for slavery, recovery of looted art and bank accounts, and payment of insurance policies for Holocaust victims.

According to the Yad Vashem’s website, 30,000 of Croatia’s Jews died during the Holocaust - 80 percent of the country’s Jewish population.

Croatia is expected to gain EU membership next year.

Serbia applied for EU membership in 2009 and may be granted entry as early as 2014. Yad Vashem estimates that 14,500 Jews were exterminated in Serbia during the Holocaust.

“This is a time to say, ‘Look, if you’re going to get into a democratic organization with rules of law, you have to demonstrate that the rule of law applies to you as well, and that you’re going to find ways to deal with your past,’” said Eizenstat, America’s ambassador to the EU from 1993-1996, who accused the EU of not holding Central and Eastern European countries accountable.

“It’s never been on the EU’s agenda,” said the 69-year-old diplomat, a native of Atlanta, Georgia. “They need to take the lead, and they simply haven’t.”

Haaretz attempted to reach the Croatian delegation attending the Jerusalem Conference but did not receive a response before press time. […]

Perhaps “it’s never been on the EU’s agenda,” Mr. Eizenstat, because the EU was, after all, conceived by “former” Nazis in 1957, and modeled on a less malevolent version of Hitler’s vision.

The stats mentioned by Haaretz — 30,000 Jews killed by WWII Croatia — naturally neglect to mention the 750,000 Serbs that Croatia killed, many of them alongside Jews at the notorious but unknown-to-Westerners concentration complex of Jasenovac, WWII’s third-most efficient death camp and in fact its first, laying the blueprint for the rest.

Clearly, Haaretz knows there’s nothing politically incorrect about ignoring the always politically correct deaths of Serbs.

Now, that’s what wasn’t mentioned about Serbs. What was mentioned follows protocol as well: “…14,500 Jews were exterminated in Serbia during the Holocaust.”

But there is a world of difference between “in Serbia” and “by Serbia,” between Nazis doing the killing in occupied Serbia and Croats doing the killing in Axis-allied Croatia. Nor, again, can one help but notice that the two mentions of Serbia — just enough to equalize it with Croatia — seem shoehorned in. They are outside of quotation marks, that is, not attributed to Eizenstat, whose quotes mention only Croatia. Another clue pointing to a bit of editorial guidance is the part about attempts to get a comment from the Croatian delegation.

Closing with a bit of history: While some Serbs did turn Jews in to the Germans (without doing the actual killing) — as was happening all over Europe — Haaretz’s glaring insertions perplexed Hague analyst Andy Wilcoxson, who sent an email elaborating:

I think there were probably some Nazi collaborators among the Serbs, but I don’t think there was a single country occupied by the Nazis where there weren’t collaborators.

What I do know is that the Chetniks [Serbian guerrillas] raised a rebellion against the Nazi occupiers, and that the vast majority of Serbs were either Communist Partisans or Royalist Chetniks. I also know that Truman posthumously gave [Chetnik] General Mihailovic the Legion of Merit. The fact that Truman gave him the award *after* the Communists executed him for “collaborating with the Nazis” tells me that President Truman didn’t put any stock in the allegations of Nazi collaboration [by Mihailovic’s Chetniks], which he was certainly aware of when he decided to give him the award because the allegations were all over the media by then.

I also know that if you go to a library and search the microfilms of American newspapers for stories mentioning Chetniks during World War II, especially 1941 and 1942, it was reported at the time that the Chetniks were leading the rebellion against the Ustasha and Nazi occupation forces in Serbia.

Here is a movie produced by 20th Century Fox in 1943 about the Chetniks.

Amazing how they can re-write the history of the 2nd World War to turn the Serbs into the Nazis they fought against and get away with it, when it was obvious to EVERYONE during the war that the Serbs sided with the Allies.

(Similarly, last year a writer named Royston Jones wrote for “While a small number of Serbs collaborated, the vast majority reacted as Serbs always have when threatened or invaded. They fought. The courage and doggedness of Tito’s (mainly Serbian) Partisans and the royalist (and totally Serbian) Chetniks led by Draža Mihailovic is well documented. The vast numbers of German troops they tied down for years undoubtedly helped the Soviets achieve victory on the Eastern Front.”)

Look for this documentary about WWII’s Halyard Mission, the largest American air rescue from behind enemy lines that no one knows about. (Because it was made possible by Serbs, and by Serb-Americans in the U.S. military):

Appendix A

At least reunified Germany has had Croatia’s back all along:

MEPs wrestle over report on Croatia’s EU progress (March 1, 2007)

…The report says that the “effective prosecution of war crimes is still being undermined by hostility at local level against initiatives questioning Croatia’s role in the conflict.”

It urges Zagreb “actively to encourage and support the prosecution of war crimes.”

It also “deplores” the government’s offer to help pay the defence costs of General Ante Gotovina and its offer to act as amicus curiae for this and other cases….

“I am satisfied with Croatia’s progress. At the moment I do not see any problems on the Croatian side for EU entry before the European elections in 2009 if prime minister Sanader pushes on with his successful policies,” said centre-right German MEP Elmar Brok.

And once we became Germany’s foot soldier, not only did we assist militarily in the biggest ethnic cleansing of the Balkan wars — Croatia’s 1995 Operation Storm which expelled 250,000 Serbs while bludgeoning those too old to make it out — but the reasons for our initial objections no longer mattered, as these more recent rosy headlines demonstrate:

Cheney: US backs Croatia for joining NATO, EU (May 7, 2006)

Bush: Croatia a Good Example for the Region (March 27, 2008)

Bush hails Croatia’s NATO acceptance (April 5, 2008)

US and UK clash over Croatia’s EU membership bid (Jan. 1, 2009)

Bush praises Croatia, promise to work on visa waiver program (April 5, 2008)

U.S. President George W. Bush praised Croatians as hardworking, freedom-loving people on Saturday and promised that America and NATO would stand by Croatia if anyone should endanger it.

Washington did not initially support Croatia’s independence….It was not until April 1992 that the U.S. recognized Croatian independence — three months after the European Union did. In the 1990s, Washington also disapproved of Croatian nationalism.

Bush’s visit is seen by the government as a confirmation that Croatia is now fully embraced by the West.

History be damned.

Appendix B

After my Croatia article ran in Jerusalem Post in February 2010, a friend shared the following revelation, indicating that WWII Croatia was a precedent for more than just death camps, and leading to the question whether six million Jews died for the dream of an independent Catholic Croatia:

Interesting chapter [in The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, Indiana University Press]. Page 39:

“….The Croatian genocide is significant historically because of its timing and the circumstances surrounding it. By failing to speak out publicly against genocide in Croatia, the Holy See lost an opportunity to condemn it in 1941, just months before the Holocaust began. The circumstances are equally important. Since the main victims of Ustasha genocide were Orthodox Serbs, Pope Pius XII forfeited an opportunity to denounce a genocide that did not involve Hitler’s plans for Jews which had not yet been worked out in detail. Among the Axis powers, the Italians found the brutality of the Ustasha murderers horrifying and the Germans saw it as economically disruptive. The summer of 1941 would have been the right moment in time for the Holy See to exercise moral leadership.

“Why then did Pope Pius not address this moral issue? It was not because it did not occur to him. Cardinal Eugene Tisserant had smelled genocide in the air at the beginning of WWII and had suggested to Pius at that time that he address the issue in an encyclical. Rather, it was because the Holy See preferred to bring diplomatic pressure on the Ustasha government instead of challenging the fascists publicly on the immorality of genocide. [Croatian fuehrer] Pavelic’s diplomatic emissaries to the Holy See were scolded gently by Monsignors Tardini and Montini…”

The genocide of Serbs and Jews in Croatia happened first — before Hitler’s started The Final Solution — and the Vatican was intent on keeping Catholic Croatia as a state, so they didn’t want to rock the boat by “condemning genocide” as a moral issue because it would damn Croatia and might even reflect badly on the Catholic Church given how religiously motivated that the Ustashe were…Once Pius remained silent about genocide in Croatia, Hitler had him over a barrel: What kind of “moral high ground” could Pius have condemning Hitler killing Jews when he’d never opened his mouth on what was happening in Catholic Croatia?

Jasenovac, the only death camp in Europe not run by Nazi Germany but rather by the Croats themselves, was built almost a year before Auschwitz . I had always assumed that the Croats had seen Germans sending Jews to death camps so they joined in by building Jasenovac, but based on the timeline it was the other way around. Croatia’s Jasenovac was actually the model for Auschwitz, right down to having a railway close by to transport people…(It’s true that Dachau was built in 1933, before the war began, but Dachau began primarily as a concentration camp to house political prisoners — mostly Christians.)

But don’t ask a Croatian about any of this stuff. He’ll believe he has no idea what you’re talking about and will call you a Chetnik for bringing it up. Anyway, it’s all about the beautiful coastline, Dude. Welcome to the EU!