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|“||This country can only be a Croatian country, and there is no method we would hesitate to use in order to make it truly Croatian and cleanse it of Serbs, who have for centuries endangered us and who will endanger us again if they are given the opportunity.||„|
|~ Milovan Žanić, the minister of the NDH government, on 2 May 1941.|
The Genocide of the Serbs (Serbo-Croatian: Genocid nad Srbima, Геноцид над Србима) was the systematic persecution of Serbs which was committed during World War II by the fascist Ustaše regime in the Nazi Party puppet state known as the Independent State of Croatia (Serbo-Croatian: Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH) between 1941 and 1945. It was carried out through executions in concentration camps, as well as through mass murder, ethnic cleansing, deportations, forced conversions, and genocidal rape. This genocide was simultaneously carried out with the Holocaust in the NDH as well as the Porajmos, by combining Nazi racial policies with the ultimate goal of creating an ethnically pure Greater Croatia.
The ideological foundation of the Ustaše movement reaches back to the 19th century. Several Croatian nationalists and intellectuals established theories about Serbs as an inferior race. The World War I legacy, as well as the opposition of a group of nationalists to the unification into a common state of South Slavs, influenced ethnic tensions in the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (since 1929 Kingdom of Yugoslavia).
The 6 January Dictatorship and the later anti-Croat policies of the Serb-dominated Yugoslav government in the 1920s and 1930s fueled the rise of nationalist and far-right movements. This culminated in the rise of the Ustaše, an ultranationalist, fascist and terrorist organization, founded by Ante Pavelić. The movement was financially and ideologically supported by Benito Mussolini, and it was also involved in the assassination of King Alexander I.
Following the Axis Powers' invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, a German puppet state known as the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was established, comprising most of modern-day Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as parts of modern-day Serbia and Slovenia, ruled by the Ustaše. The Ustaše's goal was to create an ethnically homogeneous Greater Croatia by eliminating all non-Croats, with the Serbs being the primary target but Jews, Roma and political dissidents were also targeted for elimination. Large scale massacres were committed and concentration camps were built, the largest one was the Jasenovac, which was notorious for its high mortality rate and the barbaric practices which occurred in it, which included various forms of torture, starvation, execution by gas chamber, etc. Furthermore, the NDH was the only Axis puppet state to establish concentration camps specifically for children. The regime systematically murdered approximately 200,000 to 500,000 Serbs. 300,000 Serbs were further expelled and at least 200,000 more Serbs were forcibly converted, most of whom de-converted following the war. Proportional to the population, the NDH was one of the most lethal Europeam regimes.
Mile Budak and other NDH high officials were tried and convicted of war crimes by the communist authorities. Concentration camp commandants such as Ljubo Miloš and Miroslav Filipović were captured and executed, while Aloysius Stepinac was found guilty of forced conversion. Many others escaped, including the supreme leader Ante Pavelić, most to Latin America.
The genocide was not properly examined in the aftermath of the war, because Yugoslavia's post-war Communist regime under Josip Broz Tito did not encourage independent scholars out of concern that ethnic tensions would destabilize the regime. Nowadays, оn 22 April, Serbia marks the public holiday dedicated to the victims of genocide and fascism, while Croatia holds an official commemoration at the Jasenovac Memorial Site.