Thursday, October 11, 2007

"Balkan Idols" by Vjekoslav Perica [14]

CHAPTER EIGHT: FLAMES AND SHRINES: The Serbian Church and Serbian Nationalist Movement in the 1980s



The subtitle of Chapter Eight summarizes the contents nicely. Essentially, the Serbian Church kept the flame of nationalism alive even as "nationalist Communists" who worked within the system (such as Dobrica Cosic) were systematically purged, leaving the church as the only meaningful anti-regime/pro-nationalist institution.

As I mentioned, I'm going to dispense with the detailed, section-by-section analysis of this book from now one (only three more chapters to go after this one). This relatively short chapter details to a surprising degree how explicit and focused the Serbian Church's efforts were. The focus on Kosovo (including increasingly frequent parallels drawn between Serbs and Jews, and Kosovo and Palestine--the rhetoric often became mawkishly hyperbolic) and on the direct connection between church and state were only two of the many facets of this seemingly all-consuming struggle. The church simultaneously pushed massive church building projects, including the construction of one of the world's largest Byzantine churches in Belgrade while decrying mosque-building in Yugoslavia and using its connections to block construction of a mosque, also in Belgrade. This tendency to act the martyr while playing the victim, of course, is a common theme in modern Serb ultra-nationalism.

The church also pushed the (erroneous) theory that Albanian nationalism in Kosovo was, and always had been, driven by religious rather than nationalistic motives, lending a extra dimension of urgency and hysteria to a dangerous and volatile situation it had helped foster to begin with.

All this occurred against an ironic backdrop--Orthodox Christians in Yugoslavia were not very religious; in fact, the Orthodox had much lower rates of both professed belief and religious participation/attendance compared to Muslims and--especially--Catholics. Serbs had higher rates of declared atheism as well. But little of this seemed to matter, as the church pursued activities which had little to do with theology, less to do with spirituality, and very much with nationalist politics and worldly power.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

Quote: "The focus on Kosovo (including increasingly frequent parallels drawn between Serbs and Jews, and Kosovo and Palestine--the rhetoric often became mawkishly hyperbolic) and on the direct connection between church and state were only two of the many facets of this seemingly all-consuming struggle. The church simultaneously pushed massive church building projects, including the construction of one of the world's largest Byzantine churches in Belgrade while decrying mosque-building in Yugoslavia and using its connections to block construction of a mosque, also in Belgrade. This tendency to act the martyr while playing the victim, of course, is a common theme in modern Serb ultra-nationalism."

You are absolutely correct, and I am glad you mentioned this issue. In conjunction with the war in former Yugoslavia, Serbia has undertaken a campaign to persuade the Jewish community of Serbian friendship for Jews (the Serbian Jewish Friendship Society). This same campaign portrays Bosniaks and Croats as a common threat to both Jews and Serbs, in an attempt to gain Jewish sympathy and support at a time when most nations have isolated Serbia as a Balkan pariah.

Although Serbian historians contend that the persecution of the Jews of Serbia was entirely the responsibility of Germans and began only with the German occupation, this is self-serving fiction. Fully six months before the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia, Serbia had issued legislation restricting Jewish participation in the economy and university enrolment. The first experiments in mass executions of camp inmates by poison gas were carried out in Serbia. Serbia was the first country to proudly declare itself "Judenfrei" ("cleansed" of Jews).

In August 1942, Dr. Harald Turner (the chief of the German civil administration in Serbia) announced that Serbia was the only country in which the "Jewish question" was solved and that Belgrade was the "first city of a New Europe to be Judenfrei." Turner himself attributed this success to Serbian help.

The Serbian government under General Milan Nedic worked closely with local Nazi officials in making Belgrade the first "Judenfrei" city of Europe. As late as 19 September 1943, Nedic made an official visit to Adolf Hitler (see picture bellow), Serbs in Berlin advanced the idea that the Serbs were the "Ubermenchen" (master race) of the Slavs.

Indeed, with Nazi blessings, Nedic established the Serbian State Guard, numbering about 20,000, compared to the 3,400 German police in Serbia. Recruiting advertisements for the Serb police force specified that "applicants must have no Jewish or Gypsy blood". Nedic's second in command was Dimitrije Ljotic, founder of the Serbian Fascist Party and the principal Fascist ideologist of Serbia. Ljotic organized the Serbian Volunteers Corps, whose primary function was rounding up Jews, Bosniaks, Gypsies, and partisans for execution. Serbian citizens and police received cash bounties for the capture and delivery of Jews.

Jews are, according to Serbian Chetnik Dimitrije Ljotic, a cursed people. In his views, there are 4 methods the Jews have of ruling over other nations and the whole world, which include: Capitalism, Democracy, Freemasonry, and Marxism. He openly called for action against Jews because they were, in his opinion, the most cynical and dangerous opponents of Christian values.

The Serbian Orthodox Church openly collaborated with the Nazis, and many priests publicly defended the persecution of the Jews. On 13 August 1941, approximately 500 distinguished Serbs signed "An Appeal to the Serbian Nation", which called for loyalty to the occupying Nazis. The first three signers were bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church. On 30 January 1942, Metropolitan Josif, the acting head of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, officially prohibited conversions of Jews to Serbian Orthodoxy, thereby blocking a means of saving Jewish lives. At a public rally, after the government Minister Olcan "thanked God that the enormously powerful fist of Germany had not come down upon the head of the Serbian nation" but instead "upon the heads of the Jews in our midst", the speaker of these words was then blessed by a high-ranking Serbian Orthodox priest.

A most striking example of Serbian antisemitism combined with historical revisionism is the case of Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic (1880-1956), revered as one of the most influential church leaders and ideologists after Saint Sava, founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

From Dachau, this venerated Serbian priest endorsed the Holocaust.

However, Serbia avoids even to acknowledge NAZI past and mass murders it committed during WWII.

True, 20,000 Bosnians were also part of NAZI units - but out of these 20,000 Bosniaks, how many of them were Bosniaks/Muslims? Even if all 20,000 were Bosniaks (which is not true), then we would have 2% of Bosniaks fighting on a NAZI side?

2% doesn't sound as "murderous NAZI fascists" as Serbia wants to present our people. Overhelming majority of Bosniaks fought in partisans against Ustasha, against Chetniks, and against NAZI's.

But what did Serbia do in the meantime?

The long concealed Historical Archives in Belgrade reveal that Banjica, a concentration camp located in Belgrade, was primarily staffed by Serbs. Funding for the conversion of the former barracks of the Serbian 18th infantry division to a concentration, came from the municipal budget of Belgrade. The camp was divided into German and Serbian sections. From Banjica there survive death lists written entirely in Serbian in the Cyrillic alphabet. At least 23,697 victims passed through the Serbian section of this camp. Many were Jews, including at least 798 children, of whom at least 120 were shot by Serbian guards. The use of mobile gassing vans by Nazis in Serbia for the extermination of Jewish women and children has been well documented. It is less appreciated, however, that a Serbian business firm had contracted with the Gestapo to purchase these same victims cloths, which sometimes contained hidden money or jewelry in the linings. In August 1942, following the virtual liquidation of Serbia's Jews, Nedic's government attempted to claim all Jewish property for the Serbian state. In the same month, Dr. Harald Turner; the chief of the Nazi civil administration of Serbia, boasted that Serbia was the only country in which the "Jewish question" was solved. Turner himself attributed this "success" to Serbian help. Thus, 94 percent of Serbia's 16,000 Jews were exterminated, with the considerable cooperation of the Serbian government, the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Serbian State Guard, the Serbian police and the Serbian public.

Today, many Serbs proudly cite the Chetniks as a resistance force and even claim that the Chetniks were somehow allied with the United States during the Second World War, but this is simply historical revisionism. According to the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Chetnik resistance against the Nazis came to a complete stop as early as the end of 1941. Thereafter, the Chetnik resistance actively collaborated with the both Nazis and Fascists, and for this reason Jewish fighters found it necessary to abandon the Chetniks, in favour of Tito's Partisans. In reality, the Chetniks, dedicated primarily to the restoration of the Serbian throne and territorial expansion of the Serbian state, were the moral counterpart of Croatia's Ustatsha. Both were quintessentially genocidal; the Chetniks committed systematic genocide against Bosniaks, who, for nearly all of 500 years had lived peacefully with the Sephardic Jewish community. Under explicit orders from their leader Draze Mihajlovic, the Chetniks attempted to depopulate Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia of all non-Serbs and in the process, massacred most of the 103,000 Bosniaks who perished during the war.