WWII Yugoslavia Revisited

A new collection of articles about the Balkans by Irish writer Hubert Butler has been published in Ireland. This is entitled Balkan Essays, and at its center is a group of essays collected as the “Yugoslavia Suite”. The book is reviewed in the Irish Times by Roy Foster who comments on this section as follows: 

…The essays exploring the traumatic history of the region during the 1940s center on the terrible forced conversions and murder of Orthodox Christians by the Nazi-supported authorities of “Independent Croatia”. Butler’s dogged postwar campaign (backed by deep-level research in Zagreb) fell foul of those determined to represent Archbishop Stepinac as a pure and simple martyr to communism. Butler reiterates that Stepinac’s role was passive compared with some of his clerical colleagues’, but the archbishop also (as editor Chris Agee points out) bears a strong affinity to the modern Organisation Man most terrifyingly represented by Adolf Eichmann, the subject of another essay here. … A further advantage of the concentration of this material is the extended treatment given to comparisons between Ireland and Croatia (including a suave letter from Butler correcting Evelyn Waugh’s assumption that there were parallels between the Ustashe movement in the 1940s and Sinn FĂ©in between 1916 and 1923).

Waugh’s “assumption” re the Ustase and Sinn Fein probably refers to his 1945 report to the British government, published nearly 50 years later as “Catholic Croatia Under Tito’s Heel,” Salisbury Review, September 1992. At p. 13 Waugh wrote:

The Ustase, who comprise the most fanatical and ferocious of the Croat nationalists, were in origin a secret society; they came into the open in April 1941, since when their activities have occurred in enemy-occupied territory; the only available evidence about them comes from violently antagonistic sources. It is thus impossible to give any documented or impartial account of them. In many ways they appear to have been similar to Sinn Fein. (Indeed, there are many similarities between the position of Croatia in 1939 and Ireland in 1914). 

While Sinn Fein were undoubtedly a nasty piece of work from the perspective of 1945, it may be the case that once Waugh became aware of the horrific details of the Ustase’s activities, he might not have offered that comparison. The essay collection edited by Chris Agee is currently for sale in Ireland from the link in the Irish Times but is not yet on offer from Amazon.com or its subsidiaries.  

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