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Published Works

BOOKS:

  • Matkovic B. (2017) Croatia and Slovenia at the End and After the Second World War (1944-1945): Mass Crimes and Human Rights Violations Committed by the Communist Regime, BrownWalker Press, USA (Amazon)

INA VUKIĆ: BOOK REVIEW AND PONDERINGS – BLANKA MATKOVIC BOOK ON COMMUNIST CRIMES

Croatia’s Blanka Matkovic (Matkovich), a PhD candidate at Warwick University UK, has published her Master in Philosophy dissertation in book form titled “Croatia and Slovenia at the End and After the Second World War (1944-1945): Mass Crimes and Human Rights Violations Committed by the Communist Regime”.

The book is exceptionally well written and is an outstanding example of authorship – factual, clear, compelling, and essential. Through her research and meticulous digging through State and other historical archives Matkovic excavates the many mass graves of communist crimes, brings to life in our minds the multitudes of victims and the horrid last moments of their otherwise proud lives and reveals previously unknown details about communist crimes.

“This book focuses on the events that took place in late 1944 and 1945 in Croatia and Slovenia when the intensity of violence was strongest. At that time, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KPJ), assisted by the People’s Liberation Army of Yugoslavia, the Yugoslav Army, the Department for the Protection of the People (OZNA) and the Corps of People’s Defence of Yugoslavia (KNOJ) conducted organized terror not only by intimidation, persecution, torture and imprisonment, but also by the execution of a large number of citizens perceived by the KPJ as disloyal, passive, ideological enemies or class enemies. However, investigating war and post-war crimes committed by communist regime was not possible until 1990, after the democratic changes in Yugoslavia. This book is based on documents kept in the archives of Croatia, Slovenia, the UK, and Serbia. Many of them, especially those in Croatia, recently became available to the public, which makes them extremely valuable source of data to the academics and students in this field and which shed new light on these historical events…” (Quote from the book back cover).

With this book Blanka Matkovic delivers one of the most harrowing stories of all time. Communist crimes. This is a rare book in the English language by many measures, not least of which is the way in which Matkovic captures the magnitude of communist atrocities against Croatian people. What is frightening and tragic also is the reality in Croatia, riddled with communist descendants in power, that there are many who turn a blind eye to these atrocities and by doing so do an unforgivable injustice to their own country and people.

This book demonstrates how terror, ideology and mass murder were integrated and institutionalised in the realms of the oppressive rise to power of the communist party in Yugoslavia. Through its referenced sources for the facts presented the book gives the reader original insights and anecdotes into the ways communists went on about committing atrocities against political opponents – innocent people – thus manufacturing a nation of victims that would haunt the nation as a whole for generations.

Although the book reveals cold and brutal documented and researched facts of communist crimes committed against Croatian people en mass in Croatia and Slovenia it reads like a shattering real crime genre novel – difficult to put down until read in its entirety. It is an eye-opening book as to how political pursuits of communist terror ravaged mercilessly the Croatian being, which pursued independence and freedom. The book is a sweeping study of chilling facts of mass murders and demonstrates how the former Yugoslav communist institutions together with their Partisan armed forces ravaged the very soul of Croatian freedom and independence, and this unreconciled bloody past continues to poison Croatia’s present and threatens to strangle its future.

The truth of communist crimes is a dangerous path to follow. Communist crimes formed the very essence of the continuation for almost five decades of the communist regime in former Yugoslavia. Most of today’s current ruling elites in Croatia are descended directly from the communist regime, including its terror apparatus. They are unlikely to voluntarily condemn and bring themselves to justice and this book, along with the ones published on the same topic are largely ignored by the bent mainstream media as well as the ruling elites. In light of this, how can one view Croatia as a serious democracy free of totalitarian regime? Croatia has endured a bloody war in early 1990’s to achieve independence from communist Yugoslavia but still today refuses to face its communist, totalitarian past and in doing so, threatens the welfare and well being of its own people.

Matkovic’s book also serves as an another but significant breaking of silence over the horrors of Communism in Yugoslavia that have caused so much suffering – the detailed revelations of the multitudes of mass crime events spotted across Croatia and Slovenia are a particular evidentiary strength of this book. It reads as a dramatic “criminal indictment” of totalitarian Communism within a fact sheet of chilling evidence. The indictment becomes far overwhelming if we consider the vast areas affected by the communist crimes evidenced in this book, yielding a truly colossal record of skeletons and, apart from the depravity of political fury, absolutely unfathomable suffering.

In her book Matkovic attempts to provide answers to questions that have preoccupied many a mind during the past seventy years or so and these questions are:

1. How many people were killed in Yugoslavia during and immediately after the Second World War and how many of them fell victim to communist repression?

2. Which military units were perpetrators?

3. How did they carry out executions?

4. Was the violence systematically organised and carried out under the command of the Yugoslav Army and the Communist Party of Yugoslavia?

After reading this book every reader is bound to ask himself/herself: What now? Matkovic transports the reader into the tragic times of communist atrocities and even if the presented evidence cannot, perhaps, after more than seventy years, serve as evidence for a criminal court trial it certainly serves as evidence for a moral trial against communism, which must be mounted in Croatia as a national priority if Croatia is to stand on feet of a healthy nation. Ina Vukic, prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps.(Syd)

  • Matkovic B. (2017) Imotski in the documents of Ozna, Udba and People's Militia, Executions and persecution.
  • Matkovic B. (2017) Split and central Dalmatia in the document of Ozna and Udba, POW camps and executions.
  • Horvat V., Vukic I., Pilic S., Matkovic B. (2015) Jasenovacki logori - istrazivanja, Eng. Jasenovac concentration camps (1941-1951) - Research, Zagreb, Croatia (Note: in this book a paper "Postwar Concentration Camp Jasenovac" written by me and my co-author Stipo Pilic was included, but we were not the editors of this book and we have nothing to do with the statements and conclusions expressed by the other two authors).
  • Matkovic B, Dukic J. (2011) Dugopoljski zrtvoslov, Eng. Victims of Dugopolje, Municipality of Dugopolje, Dugopolje, Croatia.
  • Matkovic B., Pazanin I. (2011) Zlocini i terori u Dalmaciji 1943.-1948. pocinjeni od pripadnika NOV, JA, OZN-e i UDB-e, Dokumenti, Eng. War crimes and terror in Dalmatia between 1943 and 1948 committed by the members of the People’s Liberation Army of Yugoslavia, the Yugoslav Army, the Yugoslav Agency for Protection of Peoples and the Department of National Security, Documents, published online.
  • Geiger V., Rupic M., Matkovic B, Pilic S. et. al (2011) Partizanska i komunisticka represija i zlocini u Hrvatskoj, Dokumenti, Dalmacija, Eng. Partisan and Communist repression and crimes in Croatia between 1944 and 1946, Documents, Dalmatia, Croatian Institute for History, Zagreb, Croatia.


ARTICLES:


PAPERS:

Summary:
Based on documents from the two hospitals in Zagreb, Croatia (‘Zakladna’ and ‘Sisters of Mercy’), it is possible, at least to some degree, to reconstruct what happened to the hospitalized members of the Croatian Armed Forces (HOS), most of whom were suffering from heavy injuries and were bedridden when the Yugoslav Army entered Zagreb on May 8, 1945 and found them in the hospitals. Even though contemporary historians do not have access to documents from other Croatian hospitals (because they are not available and/or not preserved) where the members of the Croatian Armed Forces were hospitalized together with soldiers from Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Slovenia, Italy and the New Siberia region, the documents from the ‘Sisters of Mercy’ hospital, currently deposited in theState Archives in Zagreb, definitely confirm previous eyewitnesses’ accounts on how the Department for the Protection of People (OZN-a) conducted massive arrests and transported these patients to the concentration camp „Precko“ in Zagreb, Croatia. Even though there are nodocuments regarding the ultimate destiny of these hospitalized Croatian soldiers, the results from excavations and the reprts from pathologists made in 1999 i.e. the evidence recovered from the mass grave Jazovka, in Zumberak, Croatia, proves that these wounded Croatian soldierswere mass murdered at this location, together with the hospital staff and other victims. The registration and the release documents from these two hospitals provide necessary information that could eventually, with the help of additional research and excavation of other mass graves, lead to at least a partial list of hospitalized members of the Croatian Armed Forces that were mass murdered by the members of the Yugoslav Army, the Department for the Protectionof People (OZN-a) and the Corpus of People's Defense of Yugoslavia (KNOJ) and thrown into Jazovka and other mass graves.

Summary:
Historiographic feuilleton about the partisan taking of the small town of Vrgorac in mid 1942 and the brutal slaughter of a large number of its citizens.

Summary:
This paper analyzes the struggle for the town Travnik (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and its occupancy on 22nd October 1944, including the victims who were killed thereby, and whose names were so far largely unknown.
The first part indicates the importance and significance of Travnik, and the battles being led for this town during the World War II. The second part presents the documents with the lists of missing and killed during the battle in Travnik from 20th to 24th October 1944. These sources reveal the names of 39 missing and 33 killed active members of the Croatian military unit known as "V. stajaca djelatna bojna I. ustaskog stajaceg djelatnog zdruga", of which there is almost nothing known in the Croatian historiography. The third and final part is trying to reveal the mass graves which should be marked with dignity, and to identify the perpetrators of these war crimes.

Summary:
Formations of the 9th, 19th and 26th Dalmatian division of the 8th corpus made many war crimeson Herzegovinian Croats before, during and after Mostar operation, i.e. joint activities of formations of the 8th Dalmatian corpus and 29th Herzegovinian division of the 2nd NOVJ corpus.Those victims were soldiers, civilians and priests most of whom were killed and buried in Herzegovina, but part of them was taken to Croatia and killed at the Dalmatian battlefields near Vrgorac and Zagvozd. The article analyzes familiar data about these events and updates them with unpublished documents from archive funds which are today kept in the National Archives in London, Croatian State Archives in Zagreb and State Archive in Split because of identifying formations responsible for certain crimes.

  • Matkovic B. (2012) Knin Operation and the 8th Dalmatian Corps War Crimes, original scientific paper, Sources and Contributions for the History of Dalmatia, State archive Split and Faculty of Philosophy Studies (University of Split), Split, Croatia, No.24, pp. 245-293.

Summary:
The article describes the development of Knin operation, the largest military operation led on the territory of Dalmatia during World War II, in which during November and December 1944 most units of the 8th corps took part. Military operations in the territory of Sibenik, Zadar and Drnis conducted at the beginning of November 1944 represent the early stage of Knin operation. During these actions greater number of soldiers and civilians were liquidated without standing a trial, but POWs were partially mobilized into partisan forces. With no further research, it is not possible to determine with certainty the number of victims in the stated territory, but the available figures indicate that it might be the case of a few hundred, maybe a thousand Croatian Military Forces and Wehrmacht members.

Summary:
During the Spanish Civil War, the republicans were supported by numerous international brigades consisting of volunteers from 54 countries, among them approximately 1500 volunteers from the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Out of this figure, approximately 150 Dalmatians, mostly from Imotski, Zadar, Sibenik and Split, fought in the war as well. The majority of them arrived to Spain from France and Belgium, where the most of them worked in the mines. The attempt to transfer from the Split surroundings around two hundred Dalmatians, inhabitants of Zagreb and Slovenes at the beginning of 1937 failed. Volunteers from Yugoslavia fought on the Madrid, Aragon, Levanto and Catalonian battlefields. After the retreat from Spain, the majority of the volunteers were captured at the camps St. Cypriene, Argeles, Gurss and Vernet, where around thirty of them are believed to have died due to severe life conditions. Several valuable testimonies of the Dalmatian “Spaniards”, in safekeeping at the State Archives in Split, witness to this fact.

Summary:
The article analyzes the military operations in the area of Podvucjak (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and the Battle for Odzak at the end of May 1945 which represents the end of World War II in Europe. The first section presents the geographic and demographic characteristics of the area, while the second one describes military operations carried out between 1941 and 1944 with the emphasis on the organization of defense, but also relations between partisans and Chetniks. The third part analyzes the situation in Podvucjak in 1945, and the fourth one battle for Odzak which ended with the fall of that town on 27th or 28th May. In the last section the authors tried to identify locations of the POW camps and grave sites, but also the identities of those who committed war and post-war crimes against Croatian population in this area in May 1945.

Summary:
After May 1945 prisoners from Croatian concentration camps and prisons, especially from Pozega and Slavonski Brod, were transported to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The vast majority of prisoners were confined in Sarajevo and Mostar concentration camps, from where the unknown number was taken to Stolac, Nevesinje, Bileca, Trebinje and Montenegro. According to the witnesses’ statements those persons have never come back home, therefore it is assumed that they were killed in many pits and graveyards in the area of East Herzegovina. Speleological researches confirmed that there are human bones in some pits, but suffering of Croats in that area is still not enough explored. Although most of testimonies speak about prisoners’ coming via Slavonski Brod, the traces also lead to Split and Dubrovnik. Many sources, including the archive, confirm close contacts and cooperation of Dalmatian and Herzegovinian communists and authorities (especially OZNA), because of what exploring of war crimes done in East Herzegovina and South Dalmatia is very complex.

Summary:
Following the end of World War II, the German-allied troops captured on the territory of Yugoslavia were transported to refugee camps in Austria and Italy under the command of the British and American Army. Besides them, a large number of displaced persons and prisoners from the concentration camps were also abroad. By order of the General Staff of the Yugoslav Army of 9 April 1945, a special Belgrade-based staff was to be organised as an executive organ of the state commission for repatriation within the Ministry of Social Policy, with an aim to “directly supervise all the activities concerning the organisation and work on providing refuge for war prisoners, internees, forcefully displaced persons and those forced to labour.” In charge of the transport, accommodation and provision of the repatriates as well as the establishment of these military-organised camps were the territorial military commands, place commands and town commands.
A refugee camp for repatriates in Dubrovnik was organised on 14 July 1945, probably due to the overcapacity of the camp in Trogir and Dubrovnikʼs geographical position. It operated only two months during which it provided refuge for 1.546 adults, mostly men and four children, born mainly in the surroundings of Varazdin, Maribor and Celje (70%). Most of them were the members of Wehrmacht, 392nd (Blue) Division and the NDH Navy. The repatriates generally arrived from the Grum camp near Bari (Italy), and fewer of them from other camps (Bergamo, Naples, Bari, Cairo). Half of the arrived repatriates were Slovenes, 41% were Croats, and the rest Serbs, Muslims, Montenegrins, Slovacs, Italians, Germans and volksdeutschers.

Summary:
The territories that became parts of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (SHS) in 1918 had different legal systems, as well as relationships between religious communities and state. The Constitution of 1921 failed to apply the system of separation between church and state which is why it was necessary to regulate the relationship of the Kingdom with the Holy See.
The idea of signing the Concordat was launched in early 1919, but it was not before July 1935 when it was finally signed. However, that caused a very strong resistance in the ranks of the Serbian Orthodox Church and a new political crisis emerged. Concordat was not approved in Croatia either because its representatives felt it was actually an agreement between the Holy See and Belgrade without any Croatian involvement.
Concordat was never ratified. Furthermore, religious and political crisis was accompanied by a decline of the government of Milan Stojadinovic that tried to direct Yugoslav foreign policy towards German and Italian ones.

Summary:
Researching demographic losses of the former Yugoslavia in the Second World War has remained one of the most controversial topics in the modern history of the Balkans. The obstacles, that every historian necessarily has to face while researching this topic, were influenced by several reasons, including political ones.
In the first place, the number of victims has been manipulated since 1942 when the Communist propaganda exaggerated the number trying to motivate larger number of people to join their forces. The starting point was the existence of the labour camp Jasenovac in the Independent State of Croatia, founded in the summer of 1941, and where, according to the Communist brochure published in late 1942, 300,000 prisoners were murdered by the end of that year. Manipulating the number of Jasenovac victims continued immediately after the end of the Second World War when Josip Broz Tito suggested that „during the four years we have lost one million and seven hundred thousand of our citizens“, and it served as the most important part of exaggerating the number of the war victims in general.
However, Tito’s statement needed scientific confirmation, but the prominent demographer and Professor Dolfe Vogelnik and his assistant Alojz Debevec refused this assignment since there was no population census and instead, they decided to pass it on to Vladeta Vučković, at that time a math student who was working at the Bureau of Statistics in Belgrade. He was given two weeks to calculate the total figure of all victims with the instruction that the number „must be impressive, but scientifically-statistically based“.
Nevertheless, the number of 1,700,000, that Vučković provided, „either out of ignorance or in order to deceive, the people of the regime turned demographic losses into actual victims, which were according to all investigations scientifically funded something more than a million.“ What is more, that number of one million people was supposed to include also those killed by the Communist forces.
However, the number of over 1,700,000 alleged war victims was presented by the Yugoslav representative Edvard Kardelj at the Paris Peace Conference in 1946 and it remained the official one till the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.
Based on the number of Yugoslav war victims of one million, provided by the USA government in 1954, Germany refused to pay reparations for 1,700,000 alleged victims. Therefore, the Yugoslav authorities were forced to conduct a new research in order to provide more accurate data. The list of victims was finally completed in 1964, but the result was „disappointing“ since the total number was indeed approximately one million, including 597,323 victims of the so-called „fascist terror“. According to the same list, approximately 60,000 people died or were killed in the camps Jasenovac and Stara Gradiška, where, as the Yugoslav authorities claimed, at least 700,000 people were murdered.
Official forensic investigations, conducted in 1964 in Jasenovac, were supposed to prove a huge number of Jasenovac victims and the Yugoslav war victims in general, but were interrupted since, after investigating 130 locations, they found seven mass graves which held a total of 284 victim remains. However, it is important to emphasise that the report, signed by Dr Alojz Šercelj, stated that “a large amount of objects shows that the victims were brought directly to the bridge where the executions took place and they were not previously being held in the camp. On this particularly he indicates the presence of knives, rings, coins, etc.” Therefore, the remains found did not belong to the prisoners from Jasenovac at all, but probably refugees.
The research results in 1964 were shocking and the list was declared top secret. It remained unknown to the public until 1989 when it was mentioned for the first time in the magazine Danas.
Finally, an inaccurate number of the Yugoslav victims killed during the Second World War was used as one of the tools of Serbian propaganda during the Croatian War of Independence (1990-1995) when over 20,000 people were killed. Therefore, these manipulations and the flaws in previous research had a tremendous impact even on the generations born after the end of the Second World War.
Today, due to the reluctance to deal with communist war crimes and incomplete de-communisation of Croatian society, this topic in Croatia is still a matter not only of political and scholarly debates, but also of everyday life.

Summary:

The Lika-Primorje Operation took place in the territory of Lika in March and April 1945, and was held in two phases: the conquest of Eastern Lika and Bihac, and the conquest of Gospic, Perusic, Licki Osik and Otocac. After 7 April 1945, the units of the Fourth Yugoslav Army continued their movement in the territory of the Croatian Primorje (Littoral), and towards Rijeka. In the course of this operation, a significant number of members of the military and civilians were liquidated without trial; the liquidations continued even after April 1945. Available documents indicate to the fact that various units of the Fourth Yugoslav Army, KNOJ and the First Independent Brigade of Lika had most probably committed the crimes. This paper tackles in more detail the liquidations committed in the areas of Gospic, Kaniza, Licki Osik, Otocac and Korenica; on the basis of the available sources, it has been endeavoured to identify the perpetrators of the said crimes. Fifteen graveyards have been registered in the areas of Gospic, Licki Osik, Kaniza, Korenica and Otocac. At the time when the crimes were perpetrated, the most active on these locations were the units of the then 8th Dalmatian corpus; the said units had previously participated in the perpetration of the crimes in Dalmatia and Herzegovina.

Summary:
The ex-Yugoslav historiography has so far been mostly focused on Ciglana, from which on 22nd April 1945, prisoners’ breakthrough took place, as the most ill famed among the concentration camps in the Jasenovac area. On 2nd May 1945, Yugoslav Army units occupied this territory. Nevertheless, the camp was following this date mentioned only sporadically, fragmentary and non-systematically. The existing sources include mostly brief oral testimonies, which have so far not been confirmed in any original documents. During the previous almost seven decades, no serious or thorough attempts were made to study the post-war camp in Jasenovac.
The objective of this paper is to offer a survey of the previous research, testimonies and documents witnessing to the everyday reality at the post-war camp in Jasenovac, and to complement them by the archival sources discovered so far. Among the documents found at the State Archives in Sisak, there was a document revealing the identity of the Jasenovac governor, which raised particular attention, consequently making the accuracy of certain statements given by Mirko Šimunjak, whose testimony the thesis regarding the so-called Jasenovac Working Group relied on to the most extent, questionable.
On the basis thereof, it was possible to establish that in the area around Jasenovac, following World War Two, there was a complex of prisoner camps, and later even a penalty institute (Kazneni zavod). It is therefore beyond doubt possible that people were indeed liquidated there. Neither the number of victims nor any other details may be tackled without further research of the matter, which is not only welcome, but also essential.

Summary:
Despite on-going peace process efforts, which have achieved some progress towards normalization of the situation in Northern Ireland, and disarming of the Provisional IRA conducted in 2005, this region still lives in constant danger of terrorist attacks. Operations of the IRA’s breakaway wings have been intensified after 2007, and despite the Irish National Liberation Army’s termination of the armed struggle in October 2009, the Real IRA (RIRA) and Continuity IRA (CIRA) do not yet show an intention to lay down their arms. Moreover, there are indications that the Real IRA established contacts with al-Qaeda cells in the UK, and that former members of the Provisional IRA joined the dissidents. Particular concern is the public opinion polls which suggest that dissidents enjoy greater support within the Catholic community than previously assumed. Moreover, in July 2012 the dissidents announced unification into a new organization called the “New IRA”. In early 2015 a representative of Northern Ireland Police Bill Kerr announced that dissident groups are planning new attacks on the territory of the United Kingdom on the eve of elections and the centennial celebration of the Easter Uprising. The available data on dissident activities between 2012 and 2015 can not give a definitive answer about the future of a dissident movement. The fact is that the dissidents are “here”, but if they will still be here after 2016 remains to be seen.

Summary:

In May 1945, thousands of Croat soldiers and civilians were crossing Slovenia and heading towards Austria in the hope of finding refuge there before the upcoming Yugoslav Army (JA). Among them was a student from Split FraneTente, born in Mravinci near Solin, who was captured at Bleiburg and returned to Croatia where he was imprisoned in the Bjelovar camp. After leaving the camp, Tente returns home to continue his education and
begins a new school year 1945/1946. He connected with a group of his classmates who were working on the preparation and distribution of the »anti-peoples« leaflets. He was arrested in July 1946, shortly after painting the figure of Ante Pavelić on the building of the Split gymnasium shortly before Pavelić’s name day. He spent several weeks in prison during which he was questioned on several occasions. In his file kept in the State Archives in Split, three records of his hearings have been preserved, details of which are published in this article. After being released from the prison, UDB (State Security Administration) continued to spy on Tente, and based on the archival findings, it can be concluded that the informer was one of his acquaintances. In the winter of 1947 Tente joined Ivica Bavčević with the organization of the Croatian Liberation Movement in Split, whose members on the 10 April 1947 took off the Yugoslav flag on Marjan and raised the Croatian flag. A large number of members of this group were arrested, including FraneTente, who was sentenced to three years of imprisonment with forced labor which he served in the prison of Lepoglava. According to the preserved letter of KPD Lepoglava, dated 16 January 1949, Tente died on 8 November 1948 in KPD Lepoglava "due to pleuritis and meningitis and pulmonary tuberculosis". The place of his burial remains unknown.


Work in progress:
  • Matkovic B. Killings of the Allied Pilots in the Second World War: Graves and Exhumations in the Post-war Period in Dalmatia (1946-1948).
  • Matkovic B. Post-war Communist Crimes and Graveyards in the Area of Samobor, Jastrebarsko, Stupnik and Sveta Nedjelja.
  • Matkovic B. Divided Region: The Role of Identity in the Final Resolution of the Conflict in Northern Ireland.

book

Croatia and Slovenia at the End and After the Second World War (1944-1945): Mass Crimes and Human Rights Violations Committed by the Communist Regime

Imotski

Imotski in the documents of Ozna, Udba and People's Militia, Executions and persecution

Split

Split and central Dalmatia in the document of Ozna and Udba, POW camps and executions

Dugopolje

Victims of Dugopolje

Dalmacija

Partisan and Communist repression and crimes in Croatia between 1944 and 1946, Documents, Dalmatia