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Independent State of Croatia
The Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH) was a Nazi/Fascist puppet state in World War II. It was set up in April 1941 on parts of the territory of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia after its occupation. It was ruled by the Croatian right extremist group called Ustaše. It ceased to exist in May 1945.
Following the attack of the Axis powers on the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1941, and the quick defeat of the Yugoslav army (Jugoslovenska vojska), the whole country was occupied by the Axis forces. Hitler and Mussolini installed the Croatian Ustaše extremist movement into power, forming the so-called Independent State of Croatia.
The establishment of NDH was proclaimed on April 10, 1941 by Slavko Kvaternik , deputy leader of the Ustaše. The leader of the state was Ante Pavelić. On paper, it was a kingdom under one Tomislav II of the House of Savoy, but he had no real power and never even set foot on the territory of the NDH.
The name of the new rogue state was an obvious and successful attempt at capitalizing on the Croat people's desire for independence, which had been unfulfilled since 1102. Vladko Maček the head of the Croatian Peasant Party, the strongest elected party in Croatia at the time, refused an offer from the Germans to head the government but called on people to obey and cooperate with the new government the same day Kvaternik made the proclamation. Ante Pavelić arrived on April 20th to become the poglavnik (correlated with führer). The Roman Catholic Church's official stance was also openly positive in this period.
According to Vladko Maček, the establishment of the state was greeted with approval by the middle classes and the intelligentsia who had become disillusioned with Yugoslavia, but the peasantry had met it with suspicion. The concession of an autonomous Banovina had been too recent (1939) to offset the friction that had marked the last two decades under the militarist regime of the Serbian king.
The state included most of today's Croatia, but with northern Dalmatia allocated to Italy, and Međimurje and southern Baranja annexed by Hungary. On the other hand, it spread to all of today's Bosnia and Herzegovina. Because the Ustaše did not have a capable army or administration necessary to control all of this territory, the northeastern half of nominally NDH territory was under the so-called German zone of influence (with the Wehrmacht making its presence), and the southwestern by the Italian Fascist army. After the capitulation of Italy in 1943, NDH acquired Northern Dalmatia (Split and Šibenik).
Most of its population was not Croat (particularly due to the inclusion of Bosnia), with significant populations of Serbs (about 19% of the population of Croatia at the time, over 30% of the population of NDH), Slavic Muslims, Germans, Hungarians and others. The puppet regime soon enacted racial laws, formed eight concentration camps and started a campaign of mass murder, deportation and forced religious conversion in an attempt to remove the undesirables: Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, dissenting Croats and others.
The anti-fascist movement emerged early in 1941, under the command of the Communist party, lead by Josip Broz Tito, as in other parts of Yugoslavia. With increasing attrocities by Ustaše, the Partisan guerillas gradually received support from an increasing amount of population and by the end of the Second World War Tito's Partisans expelled Nazi collaborators.
The previously important civic factors, the Peasant Party and the Catholic Church, were reasonably uninvolved. Vladko Maček was restricted to house arrest and the party made no official proclamations for or against the Ustaše. The main branches of the Church stopped participating in religious conversions as they were obviously a merely lesser form of punishment for the undesirable population, though a number of priests joined the Ustaše ranks. (See also: Involvement of Croatian Catholic clergy with the Ustaša regime.)
Later in the war Ustaše opened up a large complex of five concentration camps near Jasenovac in which up to a hundred thousand people were murdered (some estimate that this camp was the third largest camp of WWII). Overall Ustaša death count is estimated at over 400,000 people, but all written records were destroyed to cover it up. By the end of the war the Croatian Serbs were reduced to 14% of the population due to killing or conversion, while the Croatian Jews were all but eliminated. Serbian royalist guerilla Četnici were ostensibly formed in some parts of this puppet state by Serb villagers to protect themselves from the Ustaša, but in turn committed atrocities against Croats in retaliation. Both Ustaše and Četnici collaborated with the Axis powers and fought together against the Partisans.
The Independent State of Croatia effectively ceased to exist in May 1945, near the end of the war. The advance of Tito's partisan forces, joined by the Soviet Red Army, caused mass retreat of the Ustaše. A large group composed of anti-communists, Ustaša followers and of civilians was on a retreat from the partisan forces, heading west towards Italy and Austria. Ante Pavelić detached from the group and fled to Austria, Italy and finally Argentina. The rest of the group negotiated passage with the British forces on the Austrian-Slovenian border. After they refused to accept them (cf. Operation Keelhaul), Partisans are said to have executed up to 50,000 people in the Bleiburg massacre, named after the village of Bleiburg near that border near which some were executed, though many weren't killed there but on a "death march" back into Yugoslavia.
The second Yugoslavia came into being later that year.
Military leaders of the Ustaše army
- Jure Francetić
- Maks Luburić
- Rafael Boban
- Dinko Šakić
- Božidar Kavran
- Ivan Ico Kirin
- Ivica Matković
- Ljubo Miloš
- Ante (Vitez) Moskov
- Juraj Juco Rukavina
- Tomislav (Vitez) Sertić
- Vjekoslav Servetzy
- Slavko (Vitez) Stanzer
- Vjekoslav (Vitez) Vrančić
- Antun Vrban
Political leaders of the NDH
- Ante Pavelić
- Slavko Kvaternik
- Mirko Puk
- Andrija Artuković
- Ivan Petrić
- Lovro Šušič
- Mile Budak
- Ivica Frković
- Jozo Dumandžič
- Milovan Zanič
- Osman Kulenović
- Džafer beg Kulenović
- Independent State of Croatia - NDH
- Avro Manhattan: "The Vatican's Holocaust", a book about the Ustaše and the NDH
- U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Holocaust era in Croatia (1941-1945)
- BBC News: Croatian holocaust still stirs controversy
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