Bleiburg massacre over Croats

Discussions on the Holocaust and 20th Century War Crimes. Note that Holocaust denial is not allowed. Hosted by David Thompson.
Black_Legion
Member
Posts: 34
Joined: 08 Apr 2007 08:42
Location: Zagreb,Croatia

Bleiburg massacre over Croats

Post by Black_Legion » 08 Apr 2007 20:22

The Bleiburg massacre occurred shortly before the end of World War II, during May 1945 (though at a time when local hostilities had been declared over). It is named after the village of Bleiburg on the Austrian-Slovenian border, near where the massacre began. It involved mass murder of soldiers and civilians who were fleeing from the defeated Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH), a puppet state of the Nazi regime in Germany. The atrocities were a reprisal against the real or alleged members or collaborators of the fascist regime, by the communist Yugoslav partisan army, presumably with the full knowledge of their supreme commander Josip Broz Tito, himself born in Austrian-administered Croatia with one Croatian parent.

Although a still undefined number of NDH soldiers died during a series of battles and skirmishes, it is generally accepted that the vast portion of violent deaths were the result of executions that lasted at least two weeks after the cessation of hostilities. The victims were soldiers and civilians, executed without trial as an act of vengeance for the crimes committed by the Ustaše regime in NDH-controlled territories during World War II — alleged rape and subsequent killing by alleged stoning of women; beheading of disarmed soldiers). Murder continued in nearby Slovenia, and it is hard to estimate the number of victims in Bleiburg field, compared to those later found in the trenches in the Maribor area and other numerous pits in Slovenia. Many captives were sent on a death march further into partisan-controlled territory. The lowest estimate for the number killed is in excess of 50,000, making this by far one of the biggest massacres in 20th century Europe.

Croatian political émigrés, as well as other sources related to the Cossacks, had published numerous testimonies on the atrocities and British involvement in the affair (interestingly enough, British archives on the Operation Keelhaul tragedy are still sealed), but their publications have received little attention, supposedly since communist Yugoslavia was the West's protégé and the buffer zone to the Soviets in the post-war period.
The number of those who met their death in the Bleiburg massacre is almost impossible to ascertain. Generally, there are three schools that have tried to do this:

1. The school based mainly on historiographic and demographic investigations of scientists:

* The Croatian statistician Vladimir Žerjaviæ has estimated based on demographic records that ca. 55,000 people were killed in the Bleiburg area and in Slovenia.
* British journalist Misha Glenny and other investigators or publicists have come up with the figure of 50,000 executed disarmed soldiers and 30,000 civilians.
* First Croatian president (and historian) Franjo Tuðman has come with figure between 35,000 and 40,000 victims.
* The Croatian-American historian Jozo Tomaševiæ collected fairly exact records stating that 116,000 NDH combatants (Ustaše and Domobrani) arrived at Bleiburg (in a group of around 200,000 people in total), and were subsequently barred entry. He stated this number with certainty, and then proceeded to estimate that around one half of them were killed.

2. Another school operates with big numbers, and their contention is that over 250,000 Croats had been executed in Bleiburg, Slovenia and northern Croatia. This theory has gained some publicity in recent years, when Slovene authorities have estimated, in 1999 and 2000, that mass excavations in wider Maribor area have found circa 180,000 human corpses, mostly Croats (judging from the remnants of military insignia). As reported elsewhere:

* In 1999 the resources from the Republic of Slovenia reported as many as 110 mass graves of Croats discovered in this state, victims of the "Way of the Cross" in 1945 immediately after the end of World War II. Among them there were not only soldiers, but also a large number of civilians. The Slovenian public was shocked by the size and number of these graves.

* In 2001 Slovenian sources reported as many as 296 mass graves on their territory, and an estimate of about 190,000 people killed immediately after the end of World War II (May 1945 and later), mostly Croats. Just in the region of Tezno woods Slovenian sources estimate about 60,000–80,000 killed. Many children's bones have been found among the victims' remains.

3. The third school operated with small numbers. Petar S. Brajoviæ, a Yugoslav general who participated in the battles around Bleiburg and is, along with other senior Yugoslav officers like Kosta Nað and Milan Basta, frequently accused as having organized the Bleiburg massacre, claims in his book Konaèno osloboðenje ("Final liberation") published in 1983, that Ustaše had no big victims in Bleiburg and that artillery was not used. In the local cemetery there were only 16 their soldiers buried. In the same book is written that Third Army of Jugoslav Army captured 30,000 soldiers (6,000 of them were Chetniks) and 20,000 refugees.

However, the investigation was stalled, so no definite conclusion can be drawn.

frcoplan
Member
Posts: 168
Joined: 26 Jul 2005 17:54
Location: Slovenia

Post by frcoplan » 09 Apr 2007 12:11

The mass graves do not have only Croats isnide but also other members of nations from Yugoslavia. In short, most of people cought from the other, non communist side were killed after the war. A large group of those cought were Croats. IIRC remains of people from NDH goverment were found not long ago, which were killed in Slovenia.

A book was published recently in UK called Slovenia 1945 by two english authors. Although it is a bit naive in understanding of political situation and comments, it is a good start for those interested in the subject. It only deals with Slovenes and includes personall acounts etc. I will look up the authors lately, when i get back home. As said, a bit naive, but still an interesting read on some not so well known parts of second world war. It also includes accounts on things like robbing of civilian refugees by english troops etc.

frcoplan

frcoplan
Member
Posts: 168
Joined: 26 Jul 2005 17:54
Location: Slovenia

Post by frcoplan » 09 Apr 2007 13:12

Ok, the book is:

Authors: John Corsellis and Marcus Ferrar

Title: SLOVENIA 1945 Memories of Death and Survival after World War II

User avatar
Benoit Douville
Financial supporter
Posts: 3184
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 01:13
Location: Montréal

Post by Benoit Douville » 10 Apr 2007 01:56

Black_Legion,

It is really appreciated to bring this subject on the forum, I am sure I am not the only one on this forum who was totally unaware of such atrocities near the end of World War II in the village of Bleiburg.

Frcoplan,

This book seem pretty interesting, I will have to check it out.

Regards

frcoplan
Member
Posts: 168
Joined: 26 Jul 2005 17:54
Location: Slovenia

Post by frcoplan » 10 Apr 2007 08:04

It must be emphasised that British played a huge role in this. Slovenes and Croats came under their protection but they were delivered back to Yugoslavia, although there were little doubts what is going to happen to them. Deportations continued also after survivors came back and told what is going on. In the end workers from british humanitarian organisations which were in contact with slovenes and a few not in the box thinking officers managed to stop deportation literally in the last moments before the slovene civilians would be returned as well, further increasing the death toll. Unfortuantely it was too late for many Croats, Slovenes etc.

I will give a few quotes from the book above. I must warn you this is a translation from slovene editon of the book so original english text might be slightly diffrent:

This is what Tony Crosland from Royal Welch Fusiliers wrote:

"In the British army, the problem fo antiTito Croats and Slovenes is cousing almost a civil war. At the moment we have around 50 000 of them. When we accepted their surrender, it must have been assumed we are not going to return them. Then it was agreed on higher levels that they must be returned to Tito.
Unarmed mass was taken on trains and they were told they are going to Italy: they went on them in good mood and were accompanied by british army to the entrance to the tunnel on the border. There the guards left them and the train went into the tunnel. Among the officers there is rebellion and irritation over fraud and dishonesty. It is the most disgusting and coldblooded act in a war, that i ever took part in..."

Also from Nicolson:

"Welch Guards which had to force people on train were on the edge of mutiny. They were asking officers if this is what they were fighting for.When one company of Welch Guards was replaced by the other, which had to do it for just one day, the sergant said: I am happy we do not have to do this again, as i would not be able to be responsible for their actions if they were given the order, to do it again. They were changing troops. It was really bad. Indignation was extreme."

However it must also ne noticed that not all british soldiers were as the ones above. There was also a lot of taking advantage of situation, looting civilians and POWs.

One more quote to better picture, what was actually going on:

..."Most of the others didn't have luck. They did not have any reason, not to belive claims of british that they are being moved to Italy. Slovenes did not know what was happening with Cosacks and at the determined time they were peacefully reporting for loading into british military trucks. They were taken on train stations MAria Elend and Podrosica west of Pliberk and further towards east. Pernisek described a cheerfull mood at leaving in his diary:

Tuesdey 29th May 1945. Beautifull sunny day. Boys from 3rd regiment are leaving. They are happy and their song can be heard along the camp. English load the last truck. Slowly the column move. Wild roar of the engines does not oversound the merry song and cheering of domobranci. A sea of whit handkerchiefs is waving the boys goodbye. Women and girls are crying. They follow the column with their eyes until it disappear behind the Zakamen. From the distance a sounds of song and accordion can be heard.

The merry mood changed in a moment when they were forcedly stocked into wagons. To Nicolson who witnessed this deportations and knew what was going on, it seemed like deportations of prisoners into german concentration camp:

When the cattle wagons are full, our guardsmen pulled the door together and locked them with a lock. They also locked the passanger wagons. When all was secure, they moved away, and their place was taken by Tito partisans, which were hidding in the bushes and in the buildings. Wagons were old and through slots they (domobranci) could see, what was going on. They started banging on the walls of wagons, screaming curses, but not on partiosans, but us, who deceived them and send at least the men into ceratin death. This scene was going on day after day, twice a day. This is the most horrible expirience of my life.

The survivor remember that british soldiers were shouting on them, pointing rifles and shooting now and then. British brought tanks and were searching backpacks and pockest of refugees, taking cameras, knifes, ink pens and other valuables..."


I appologize Black Legion for moving a bit from your theme, but it is connected happening and perheaps a good picture on what was going on.

frcoplan

User avatar
henryk
Member
Posts: 2228
Joined: 27 Jan 2004 01:11
Location: London, Ontario

Post by henryk » 10 Apr 2007 21:47

In books by Nikolai Tolstoy , Tolstoy claimed that Macmillan was responsible for the British repatriating White Russian soldiers and others, who were then slaughtered. Tolstoy lost a lawsuit in the House of Lords, for slander.
http://www.geocities.com/kitezhgrad/his ... ayall.html
Patiently I built up a circumstantial case which proved, to my satisfaction at least, that Harold Macmillan (later, Lord Stockton and Prime Minister of Great Britain) had himself laargley engineered the whole affair. I published the fresh evidence, such as it was, concerning the Cossacks in Stalin's Secret War (1981), and on the Yugoslavs in an article in Encounter (May 1983).

The case I presented was admittedly circumstantial and speculative, leaving considerable room for differing interpretation even if the salient points appeared clear enough. It also included a number of errors of commission and omission. I would regret what proved to have been a jejunely premature venture more than I do, were it not that publication stimulated anew public interest in the matter. As a result I began to receive a fresh flow of information, some of it implicating Toby Low, at the time Brigadier-General of Fifth Corps: the man who signed the orders arranging the handovers of Cossacks and Yugoslavs. Today, Toby Low is Lord Aldington.

Harold Macmillan died several years ago without answering the charges leveled against him in The Minister and the Massacres. Reluctantly, Toby Low has been pressured into a court case to which I am a party. The full facts will, I hope, come to light in the near future. Whatever vindication comes for the victims of forced repatriation, it comes too late.
— Count Nikolai Tolstoy
....................................................
Addendum: Since 1988, when this essay was written, Count Tolstoy has lost his court case against Toby Low and has been ordered by the Court to pay reparations for alleged libel. To the best of our knowledge, the decision of the Court was being appealed, as recently as two years ago.


David Thompson
Forum Staff
Posts: 23182
Joined: 20 Jul 2002 19:52
Location: USA

Post by David Thompson » 10 Apr 2007 23:05

frcoplan -- Do you have any sourced evidence that British commanders knew that Tito's forces intended to murder the repartiated POWs?

User avatar
Allen Milcic
Member
Posts: 2903
Joined: 09 Sep 2003 20:29
Location: Canada

Post by Allen Milcic » 11 Apr 2007 04:07

Black Legion:

Please provide a source for your postings, or you make it appear that the content therein was created by you. In this case, your text comes from this website:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleiburg_massacre

Allen/

David Thompson
Forum Staff
Posts: 23182
Joined: 20 Jul 2002 19:52
Location: USA

Post by David Thompson » 11 Apr 2007 05:49

Black Legion -- Please see my warning to you about plagiarism at viewtopic.php?p=1044408#1044408

aperson
Member
Posts: 52
Joined: 24 Mar 2007 07:22
Location: Oz

Post by aperson » 12 Apr 2007 08:04

Crna Legija,

Do you know of any sources where I might gain further information regarding the details of individuals lost during the Bleiburg massacres. Are there any sites or printed sources that are of particular value?. My mother's cousin was enrolled in a Roman Catholic seminary in Zagreb and who, as far as I know, perished during the the Bleiberg death march. I am interested to see if there are any accessible internet or printed sources regarding the evidence of this war crime and its victims. Croatian language is no problem.

Many thanks in advance,

Maurice
Last edited by aperson on 12 Apr 2007 22:29, edited 1 time in total.

frcoplan
Member
Posts: 168
Joined: 26 Jul 2005 17:54
Location: Slovenia

Post by frcoplan » 12 Apr 2007 08:35

David Thompson wrote:frcoplan -- Do you have any sourced evidence that British commanders knew that Tito's forces intended to murder the repartiated POWs?


David,

I will give you the answer under "Role of British in post war killings in Yugoslavia" as this is a thread conserning destiny of croats captured in bleiburg only.

David Thompson
Forum Staff
Posts: 23182
Joined: 20 Jul 2002 19:52
Location: USA

Post by David Thompson » 12 Apr 2007 09:33

frcoplan -- I asked you:
Do you have any sourced evidence that British commanders knew that Tito's forces intended to murder the repartiated POWs?

You replied:
I will give you the answer under "Role of British in post war killings in Yugoslavia" as this is a thread conserning destiny of croats captured in bleiburg only.

You are mistaken. You raised the subject of British participation, and British knowledge in this thread, at viewtopic.php?p=1043937#1043937 , when you wrote:
It must be emphasised that British played a huge role in this. Slovenes and Croats came under their protection but they were delivered back to Yugoslavia, although there were little doubts what is going to happen to them.

I see that you have given an answer in another thread, in a different section of the forum, at viewtopic.php?p=1044898#1044898 . In the future, please provide a link to your answering post, so each of our readers who are interested in the subject don't have to individually search all of the forum threads to find your reply. You can reference an individual post by clicking (or double-clicking) on the little arrow box image which appears next to the "post subject" header.
Last edited by David Thompson on 12 Apr 2007 09:45, edited 2 times in total.

frcoplan
Member
Posts: 168
Joined: 26 Jul 2005 17:54
Location: Slovenia

Post by frcoplan » 12 Apr 2007 09:37

Ok, here its is:

Answer for Mr. David Thompson:

The role and awarness of British what is going to happen to refugees diffrent military formations if they are returned to Yugoslavia unfortunately can not be uncovered in full, becouse the BRitish archives concerning this happening are still not open. So all we can use is personal accounts opinipons etc.

I would say that there was little doubt what is going to happen with political oposition if you send it to totalitarian communist regime. Not to mention the two sides were involved in bloody civil war before that. Perheaps it would be better to say sides, as diffrent formations in Yugoslavia were not linked together.

The british also had reports from their agents on the field.

And it seems that the lower rank on the field had no doubt what is going to happen to people which they were returning.

There is also a conspiracy of lying to people they are going to Italy. But not only to Slovenes, but also members of allied and british army, so clearly there was a full awarnes that sending those people back would not only couse problems with them, but also their own army. In fact there is a case described in this book, were an officer clearly ignored the order to send people back.

I will give a few more quotes from the book:

1st quote:

"...Many British were truly ashamed. Nigel Nicholson wrote 45 years later....Those were three shamefull weeks. This was one of the most shamefull operations that British soldiers had to do it under order... This brutal act was done with full awarness of possible consequence. Compassion was oppressed. A huge betrayal was organized to satisfy current needs (but what?) and calm down Stalin and Tito...

Nicolson also said this opinion was widespread in officers cantine and also among lower ranks"

The following quote shall be about major Barre a canadian who was at first convincing slovenes the deportations into Yugoslavia are not taking place, but later found out he was lied to by the British. He was passed an order by lieutenant Hames that on next day 1st of June, 2700 slovene civilian refugees must be prepeared for transport from the camp.

2nd quote:

"I did not accept this as for me this was not an order from my superior. I want to emphasise: i did not fulfill this order. I completly ignored it (...) i was horribly upset. It was a rather dificult conversation"

NExt quote shall be about major Johnson, to which major Barre and dr. Mersol went afterwards. Major Barre wanted the Birtish to protect the slovene refugees as it was their duty after taking them under their protection. After about half an hour, to a surpise of dr. Mersol, he was informed that a decision was made that no one is going to be returned unless he or she wishes so. When doctor Mersol started to thank major Johnson, explaining that situation in Yugoslavia is horrible and not democratic, major Johnson interrupted him and said:

"Don't teach me on conditions in Yugoslavia. I know them pretty well, thats why i gave the order as i told you"

Major Johnson was a communication officer in Titos headquaters in Yugoslavia.

It must be explained here why there was so much trust in the british by slovenes. Those people were extremely pro western and they represented all other, we copuld say democratic forces from Slovenia. There was a lot of intelectuals among them and other important people which would be killed if captured by communists. The west and British in speciall were seen as some kind of role model to them through the war. Of course the dissapointment and shock was so much higher after those events. A quote from Pernisek:

"We were horribly disapointed by the English. We could not even imagine such villainy and hypocritical betrayal. Good young mr. Corsellis, who deals with us admitts that English who are with us are ashamed of this act. There is nothing else for us to do, but to lock the pain into our hearts and not curse. We are refugees given on mercy and disgrace of English"

As i said before my translations can be diffrent from English original, as i am translating this from slovene version.

frcoplan

David Thompson
Forum Staff
Posts: 23182
Joined: 20 Jul 2002 19:52
Location: USA

Post by David Thompson » 12 Apr 2007 10:09

Thanks, frcoplan. There is also an interesting discussion of what the British knew at:

Forced Repatriation, Operation Keelhaul and Bleiburg Tragedy
viewtopic.php?t=69593 and
viewtopic.php?t=69595 (locked as duplicative)

We have more discussions on the general subject of the Bleiburg repatriations at:

Operation Keelhaul/Forced Repatriation
viewtopic.php?t=24513
Allied War Crime Bleiburg
viewtopic.php?t=9006
15th May 1945 - Bleiburg
viewtopic.php?t=50001

The problem with discussing this subject is, as you noted, the fact that British records are still secret. As a result, it's very difficult to figure out when senior commanders became aware that many of the prisoners they were turning over were being murdered by the Titoist forces. By the beginning of July 1945 US armed forces had orders not to repatriate POWs to certain countries, including Yugoslavia. (the orders are referenced at viewtopic.php?p=628720#628720 ) Presumably the reason was because the US armed forces commanders had discovered that the repatriated persons were being killed or mistreated. It would be interesting to see if there was a similar order issued to British forces, and when that happened.

frcoplan
Member
Posts: 168
Joined: 26 Jul 2005 17:54
Location: Slovenia

Post by frcoplan » 12 Apr 2007 10:52

The order was issued, from same book i cna provide you the following:

On 16th of June, Selby-Bigge received a note from sir Henry Floyd in which it was said that army commander has sent a letter with instructions that there shall be no returning untill totall clasification and that no force is to be used...

I am sorry i'll try to provoid ethe whole text when i'll have more time.

The books also gives the date 4th of June as a date of visit of feldmarschal Alexander to camp in Vetrinje. Apparently fifth core did not follow his order that Yugoslavs should be transported to Distone in Italy. He was adressed by dr. Mersol asking for protection for Slovenes andd other people from Yugoslavia with a qucik explanation on midwar happening in yugoslavia. After a bried look of the camp, he left. On sam day in the evening major Hames got a new order from his superiors:

New military policy regarding Yugoslav people effective immediately:

1. No yugoslav shall be returned to Yugoslavia or given to yugoslav troops against his will.
2. Yugoslavs which fough against Tito shall be considered for persons which have surrendered and shall be sent to Vetrinje camp. Avaiting further orders
3. All those persons shall be considered "moved" (i am sorry i can not fis the right translation for this) persons and shall e finally sent to Italy
4. No evacuation of Vetrinje camp till further notice

Unfortunatley it was too late for many.

frcoplan

Return to “Holocaust & 20th Century War Crimes”