Aloysius Viktor Stepinac (Croatian: Alojzije Viktor Stepinac, 8 May
1898 – 10 February 1960) was a cardinal of the Catholic Church, as
Archbishop of Zagreb
Archbishop of Zagreb from 1937 until his death in 1960,
including the fascist rule of the
Ustaše over the Axis puppet state
the Independent State of
Croatia (NDH) from 1941 to 1945 during World
War II. He was tried by the communist Yugoslav government after the
war and convicted of treason and collaboration with the Ustaše
regime. The trial was depicted in the West as a typical communist
"show trial", biased against the
archbishop;[page needed] In a verdict that polarized public
opinion both in Yugoslavia and beyond,[page needed] the
Yugoslav authorities found him guilty on the charge of high treason
(for collaboration with the fascist
Ustaše regime), as well as
complicity in the forced conversions of Orthodox
Catholicism. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison, but served
only five at
Lepoglava before being transferred to house arrest with
his movements confined to his home parish of Krašić.
In 1952 he was appointed cardinal by
Pope Pius XII. He was unable to
participate in the 1958 conclave due to the house arrest to which he
had been sentenced. On 10 February 1960, still under confinement in
Krasic, Stepinac died of polycythemia and other illnesses he
contracted while imprisoned. On 3 October 1998,
Pope John Paul II
declared him a martyr and beatified him before 500,000 Croatians in
Marija Bistrica near Zagreb.
His record during World War II, conviction, and subsequent
beatification remain controversial. On 22 July 2016, the
Court annulled his post-war conviction due to "gross violations of
current and former fundamental principles of substantive and
procedural criminal law". However, some claim the trial against A.
Stepinac was "carried out with proper legal procedure". In July
2016, Serbia’s Foreign Ministry stated Stepinac’s rehabilitation
by Croatian was “horrified with the rehabilitation of the Ustasha
Stella Alexander, author of The Triple Myth, a sympathetic biography
of Stepinac, writes about him that "Two things stand out. He feared
Communism above all (especially above fascism); and he found it hard
to grasp that anything beyond the boundaries of Croatia, always
excepting the Holy See, was quite real. ... He lived in the midst of
apocalyptic events, bearing responsibilities which he had not sought.
... In the end one is left feeling that he was not quite great enough
for his role. Given his limitations he behaved very well, certainly
much better than most of his own people, and he grew in spiritual
stature during the course of his long ordeal."
Jozo Tomasevich wrote that while Stepinac is to be
commended for his actions on behalf of individuals and groups, as well
as his general proclamations of human rights, Stepinac's failure to
publicly condemn the genocide against the Serbs, “cannot be defended
from the standpoint of humanity, justice and common decency” The
historian Robert McCormick states, “tor all the Archbishop’s hand
wringing, he continued to be a tacit participant in the Independent
Croatia (ISC). He repeatedly appeared in public with the
Ustaše leader Ante Pavelić), and issued Te Deum's on
the anniversary of the ISC’s creation. His failure to publicly
denounce the Ustaše's atrocities in the name of the ISC, was
tantamount to accepting Pavelić's policies".
1 Early life
2 Coadjutor archbishop
2.2 Political situation
2.3 Other activities
3 Archbishop of Zagreb
4 Political and religious views
5 World War II
5.1 Invasion and establishment of the Independent State of Croatia
5.2 Relations with the government
5.3 Response to
5.3.1 Racial laws
5.3.2 Mass killings and concentration camps
5.3.4 Forced conversions
126.96.36.199 Other crimes against the Serbian Orthodox Church
5.3.5 Overall assessments of Stepinac's actions during WWII
6 Post-war period
7.2 Annulment of the verdict
10 Death and martyrdom controversies
11.1 Nominations to Righteous Among the Nations
12 Primary sources
13 See also
17 External links
Alojzije Viktor Stepinac was born in Brezarić, a village in the
Krašić in the Austro-Hungarian Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia
on 8 May 1898, to a wealthy viticulturalist, Josip Stepinac, and his
second wife Barbara (née Penić). He was the fifth of nine
children,[a] and he had three more siblings from his father's first
His mother, a devout Roman Catholic, prayed constantly that he would
enter the priesthood. The family moved to
Krašić in 1906,
and Stepinac attended primary school there, then attended high school
Zagreb from 1909–15, boarding at the Archdiocese of Zagreb
orphanage. This was followed by study at the lycée of the
archdiocese, as he was seriously considering taking holy orders,
having sent in his application to the seminary at the age of 16.
He was conscripted into the
Austro-Hungarian Army for service in World
War I, and had to accelerate his studies and graduate ahead of
schedule. Sent to a reserve officers school in Rijeka, after six
months training he was sent to serve on the Italian Front in 1917
where he commanded Bosnian soldiers. In July 1918, he was captured
by Italian forces who held him as a prisoner of war. His family was
initially told that he had been killed, and a memorial service held in
Krašić. A week after the service, his parents received a telegram
from their son telling them he had been captured. He was held in
various Italian prisoner-of-war camps until 6 December 1918.[citation
After the formation of the State of Slovenes,
Serbs on 1
December 1918, he was no longer treated as an enemy soldier, and he
volunteered for the Yugoslav Legion that had been engaged on the
Salonika Front. As the war had already ended, he was demobilized
with the rank of second lieutenant and returned home in the spring of
After the war he enrolled at the Faculty of Agriculture at the
University of Zagreb, but left it after only one semester and returned
home to help his father in his vineyards.[c] His father wanted him to
marry, and in 1923 he was briefly engaged to a teacher, Marija Horvat,
but the engagement was broken off.[d] In 1922, Stepinac was
part of the politically-conservative Catholic Hrvatski orlovi
(Croatian Eagles) youth sport organisation, and traveled to the mass
games in Brno, Czechoslovakia. He was at the front of the group's
ceremonial procession, carrying the Croatian flag.
On 28 October 1924, at the age of 26, Stepinac entered the Collegium
Germanicum et Hungaricum in
Rome to study for the priesthood.
During his studies there he befriended the future Austrian cardinal
Franz König when the two played together on a volleyball team.
Granted an American scholarship, he went on to study for doctorates in
both theology and philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
Along with Croatian, he was fluent in Italian, German and French.
He was ordained on 26 October 1930 by Archbishop Giuseppe Palica,
Vicegerent of Rome, in a ceremony which also included the ordination
of his eventual successor as Archbishop of Zagreb, Franjo Šeper.
On 1 November, he said his first mass at the Basilica di Santa Maria
Maggiore. Stepinac wanted to serve the common people, and wanted
to be a parish priest.
He celebrated his first mass in his home parish of
Krašić on 1 July
1931, but instead of being appointed to a parish he was appointed as
liturgical master of ceremonies to the
Archbishop of Zagreb
Archbishop of Zagreb Antun
Bauer on 1 October. He also established the archdiocesan branch of the
Catholic charity Caritas in December of that year, and initiated
and edited the Caritas magazine. He also temporarily administered
the parishes of
Samobor and Sveti Ivan Zelina. By this time,
Stepinac had become a strong Croatian nationalist, but was not active
Catholic Action or the politically-conservative Croatian Catholic
movement. He was considered "conscientious and devoted to his
Black Madonna of Marija Bistrica, to which Stepinac led a
pilgrimage soon after his consecration
Stepinac was appointed coadjutor bishop to Bauer on 28 May 1934 at the
age of 36 years, having been a priest for only three-and-a-half years,
being selected after all other candidates had been rejected. Both Pope
Pius XI and King
Alexander I of Yugoslavia
Alexander I of Yugoslavia agreed with his
appointment, and although the king wanted to withdraw his assent after
he received further information about Stepinac, he was dissuaded by
Bauer. According to some sources, Stepinac was the fifth or even
eighth candidate to be considered for the role, which brought with it
the right to succeed Bauer. Stepinac's decision to join the Yugoslav
Legion in 1918 made him a more acceptable candidate to King
According to Stepinac's biographer,
Friar Šimun Ćorić, Bauer asked
Stepinac if he would give his formal consent to being named as Bauer's
successor, but after considering the issue for several days, Stepinac
refused, saying that he considered himself unfit to be appointed as a
bishop. In this version of events, Bauer persisted, and once it was
clear that King Alexander had agreed to his appointment, Stepinac
consented. Upon his naming, he took In te, Domine, speravi (I
place my trust in You, my Lord) as his motto.
At the time of his consecration on 24 June 1934, Stepinac was the
youngest bishop in the Catholic Church, and was completely unknown
to the Croat people. Two weeks after his consecration, he led a
15,000-strong pilgrimage to the old
Marian shrine of the Black Madonna
at Marija Bistrica. Stepinac followed this with annual pilgrimages
to the site. Bauer delegated many tasks and responsibilities to
Stepinac, and he travelled widely within the country.
Stepinac's appointment came at a time of acute political turmoil in
Yugoslavia. In June 1928, the popular leader of the Croatian Peasant
Party (Serbo-Croatian: Hrvatska seljačka stranka, HSS) Stjepan Radić
and several other Croatian deputies had been shot by a Serb deputy in
the Yugoslav Parliament. Two had died immediately and Radić had
succumbed to his wounds two months later, the incident causing
widespread outrage among Croats. In January of the following year,
King Alexander had prorogued Parliament and had effectively become a
In April 1933, the new leader of the HSS
Vladko Maček had been sent
to prison for three years on charges of separatism after he and other
opposition figures had issued the
Zagreb Points condemning the royal
regime and its policies. While Maček was in prison, his deputy Josip
Predavec was apparently murdered by the police. When Stepinac
wanted to visit Maček in prison to thank him for his well-wishes on
Stepinac's appointment as coadjutor bishop, his request was
In response to the many messages of support, Stepinac "was sincerely
thankful for all the congratulations, but said that he was not
enthusiastic about the appointment because it was too heavy a cross
On 30 July 1934, Stepinac received the French deputy Robert Schuman,
whom he told: "There is no justice in Yugoslavia. [...] The Catholic
Church endures much". Throughout 1934, Stepinac spoke with veteran
Croatian politician and de facto head of the HSS
Ante Trumbić on
several occasions. On his views regarding the Kingdom of Yugoslavia,
Trumbić recorded that Stepinac had "loyalty to the state as it is,
but with the condition that the state acts towards the Catholic Church
as it does to all just denominations and that it guarantees them
freedom". After his consecration, Stepinac visited
pledge his allegiance to King Alexander. The journalist Richard West
I told the King that I was not a politician and that I would forbid my
clergy to take part in party politics, but on the other hand I would
look for full respect for the rights of Croats. I warned the King that
Croats must not be improperly provoked and even forbidden to use
the very name of Croat, something which I had myself experienced.
On 9 October 1934, King Alexander was assassinated in
Marseilles by a
Bulgarian gunman backed by the Croatian nationalist organisation, the
Ustaše. Stepinac, along with Bishops Antun Akšamović, Dionizije
Njaradi and Gregorij Rožman, were given special permission by the
Belgrade to attend the Serbian Orthodox funeral.
Less than a month after the assassination, Stepinac was among those
who signed what became known as the "
Zagreb Memorandum", which
listed a number of demands, including the exoneration of Maček, a
general amnesty, freedom of movement and association, restrictions on
the activities of government-authorised paramilitaries, and free
elections. The key demand of the Memorandum was that the regency that
had succeeded the king should address the "Croatian question", the
desire of many
Croats for self-determination.
In 1936, he climbed Mount Triglav, the tallest peak in Yugoslavia. In
2006, the 70th anniversary of his climb was commemorated with a
memorial chapel being built near the summit. In July 1937, he
led a pilgrimage to the
Holy Land (then the British Mandate of
Palestine). During the pilgrimage, he blessed an altar dedicated
to the martyr Nikola Tavelić, who had already been beatified at that
time, and was later canonised as a saint. After his return from
Palestine, Stepinac began a campaign for the canonisation of Tavelić,
and proposed that a monument to him be built in the
overlooking the Adriatic Sea.
Archbishop of Zagreb
The creation of the Banovina of
Croatia was Prince Paul's attempt to
address the "Croatian question"
On 7 December 1937, Bauer died, and though still below the age of
forty, Stepinac succeeded him as Archbishop of Zagreb. Presaging the
Ustaše reign of terror during World War II, Stepinac addressed a
group of university students during
Lent in 1938, saying, "Love for
one's own nation must not turn a man into a wild animal, which
destroys everything and calls for reprisal, but it must enrich him, so
that his own nation respects and loves other nations." In 1938,
Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Kingdom of Yugoslavia held its last election before the outbreak
of war. Stepinac voted for Maček's opposition list, while Radio
Belgrade spread the false information that he had voted for Milan
Stojadinović's Yugoslav Radical Union. In the latter half of
1938, Stepinac had an operation for acute appendicitis.
In 1940, Stepinac received the regent Prince Paul at St. Mark's Church
as he arrived in
Zagreb to garner support for the 1939
Cvetković–Maček Agreement, which had created the autonomous
Croatia within Yugoslavia. The Agreement was intended to
address the "Croatian question", but did not satisfy those demanding
Pope Pius XII
Pope Pius XII declared the period from 29 June
1940 to 29 June 1941 as a jubilee year to celebrate 1300 years of
Christianity among the Croats. In 1940, the Franciscan Order
celebrated 700 years in
Croatia and the order's Minister General
Leonardo Bello came to
Zagreb for the event. During his visit,
Stepinac joined the Third Order of
Saint Francis, on 29 September
1940. After the death of Bauer, Stepinac attempted to remain aloof
from politics, and tried to unify Croatian Catholic organisations and
subordinate them directly to his authority. He was unable to achieve
this, probably because he was young and relatively inexperienced, and
did not command the level of respect and authority usually accorded an
Archbishop of Zagreb.
Mark Biondich observes that the
Catholic Church had
historically been on the fringes of Croatian mass politics and public
life, and that the influence of the Church had been further eroded
during the interwar period due to the royal dictatorship and the
popularity of the anti-clerical HSS.
Political and religious views
During his period as coadjutor archbishop and as Archbishop of Zagreb
up to the German-led Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941,
Stepinac made his views clear on a number of political and religious
issues. Foremost among these statements were those regarding
Protestantism, Eastern orthodoxy, communism and Freemasonry.
Stepinac criticized Protestantism, stating in a speech in 1938 that
Catholic Church was the greatest civilising force in human
history", but railed against those that wanted to deprive the
Catholic Church of any influence in public life. He referred to the
Reformation as the "Deformation", and denounced Luther as a false
prophet who "demolished the principles of legal authority given by the
Lord". He went on to blame
Protestantism for the "hell in which
human society suffers today", and said that it had opened the road
to "anarchy in all forms of human life." Stepinac was also highly
critical of Eastern orthodoxy, seeing it as a serious danger to both
Catholic Church and
Croats in general. The day after the Yugoslav
coup d'état of 27 March 1941, he wrote in his diary:
All in all,
Serbs are two worlds, the north and south
poles, which will never become close except by a miracle of God. The
schism is the greatest curse of Europe, almost greater than
Protestantism. In it there is no morality, no principle, no truth, no
justice, no honesty.
On the same day he issued an encyclical to his clergy, calling on them
to pray for the young king, and that
Croatia and Yugoslavia would be
"spared the horrors of war". This was consistent with long-standing
practice of the
Catholic Church to show loyalty to the state and its
Stepinac was well aware of the fact that an estimated 200,000 mostly
Croatian Catholics had converted to the
Serbian Orthodox Church
Serbian Orthodox Church in the
interwar period. He later claimed that Catholics were forced to
convert to Orthodoxy during the period between the wars, but according
to the historian Jozo Tomasevich, the principal reason for their
conversions was the pro-Serb public policy in the Serb-dominated
Yugoslav state meant that it was advantageous both politically and for
career prospects to be a member of the dominant religion. Stepinac
viewed the Yugoslav state as essentially anti-Catholic, particularly
after the failure of the Yugoslav government to ratify the Concordat
with the Vatican, which would have put the
Catholic Church on a more
equal footing with the Orthodox Church. He was also sensitive to
the fact that the
Concordat had been vetoed in the Yugoslav parliament
partly due to pressure exerted by the Serbian church.
In 1940, Stepinac had told Prince Paul:
The most ideal thing would be for the
Serbs to return to the faith of
their fathers, that is, to bow the head before Christ's
representative, the Holy Father. Then we could at last breathe in this
part of Europe, for Byzantinism has played a frightful role in the
history of this part of the world."
Of all the threats he perceived to the Croatian people and the
Catholic Church, Stepinac railed most against the dangers of
communism. In August 1940, in response to the recent establishment of
diplomatic relations between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, Stepinac
sermonised that there could be no co-operation between the Church and
communists, stated that the Church was not afraid of communists, and
that communists would make
Croatia "a nation of killers and robbers,
debauchees, and thieves".
Stepinac was particularly obsessed with Freemasonry, which was
closely associated with the unity of Yugoslavia, and was opposed to
the "authoritarianism and antiliberal ideology" of the Catholic
Church. In 1934 he wrote in his diary: "In Yugoslavia, today,
Freemasonry rules. Unfortunately, in the heart of the Croatian nation
also, in Zagreb, this hellish society has entrenched itself, a lair of
immorality, corruption, and all kinds of dishonesty, the sworn enemy
Catholic Church and therefore also of the Croatian nation.
Without the knowledge and approval of the Freemasons, nobody can be
appointed to any influential position. It is no joke to join battle
with it, but it must be done in the interests of the church, the
Croatian people, and even the state of Yugoslavia if it wants to
continue to exist, because the violence that rules today is supported
Tomasevich observes that the highly critical views expressed by
Stepinac on these matters were quite common among conservative senior
churchmen prior to the
Second Vatican Council
Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s. He
further claims that despite papal encyclicals against fascism in 1931,
and Nazism in 1937, Stepinac never mentioned, criticised or condemned
either of those political currents, noting that in 1938, the Catholic
Church was supporting the same side as Italy and
Germany in the
Spanish Civil War, and public criticism of their political systems
would not have been helpful. Finally, he states that the Vatican saw
Germany as the most important opponent of communism. Nevertheless,
Stepinac was a member of the Yugoslav Catholic Bishops' Conference
that issued warnings against both Nazism and
Communism after the 1937
papal encyclical against Nazism ideology. Stepinac feared both
Nazism and communism, and even distrusted western democracy. This can
be seen from his diary entry of 5 November 1940, when he wrote, "If
Germany wins [the war], there will be appalling terror and the
destruction of little nations. If England wins, the masons, [and] Jews
will remain in power... If the USSR wins, then the devil will have
authority over both the world and hell."
West describes Stepinac as a "puritanical zealot", who gathered
together those opposing communism, liberalism, secular education,
divorce reform, profanity, sexual intercourse outside of marriage, and
birth control, under the umbrella of the Croatian Catholic movement.
Stepinac even railed against "mixed sunbathing and swimming". West
also observes that by 1934, Stepinac had developed into an "ardent,
almost obsessive, Croatian nationalist whose bigotry was softened only
by his piety and a measure of human kindness". According to the
journalist Marcus Tanner, by the time he became coadjutor bishop,
Stepinac had become a determined opponent of the Serb-centric approach
of the Yugoslav government, and by the time he became archbishop he
was a strong supporter of the HSS, making it clear that he had voted
for Maček in the 1938 elections.
World War II
Part of a series on
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Catholic Church persecutions 1939-1958
Eradication of Church under Stalinism
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Conversion of non-Muslim places of worship into mosques
Christianity in Saudi Arabia
Christianity in Sudan
Genocide of Christians by ISIL
Assyrian exodus from Iraq
Martyrs of Japan
European wars of religion
Thirty Years' War
France during the French Revolution
War in the Vendée
José Sánchez del Río
Persecution in Mexico
Umayyad conquest of Hispania
Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War
Red Terror (Spain) · Dilectissima Nobis
Martyrs of Turon
Martyrs of Daimiel
Bartolome Blanco Marquez
Innocencio of Mary Immaculate
Eugenio Sanz-Orozco Mortera
233 Spanish Martyrs
498 Spanish Martyrs
522 Spanish Martyrs
Nazi persecution of the
Catholic Church in Germany
Mit brennender Sorge
Max Josef Metzger
Persecution in China
Ad Sinarum gentem
Ad Apostolorum principis
Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei
François-Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận
Polish anti-religious campaign (1945–1990)
108 Blessed Polish Martyrs
Anti-Christian violence in India
Anti-Christian violence in Karnataka
Miguel Obando y Bravo
Four U.S. missionaries
1989 murders of Jesuits
Religious violence in Nigeria
After the outbreak of war in September 1939, Yugoslavia declared its
neutrality, and the
United Kingdom worked hard to help Yugoslavia
maintain its stance. In the face of steadily mounting pressure
Germany and Italy, by March 1941 Yugoslavia had been completely
surrounded by members of the Axis. In this situation, some senior
government figures were advocating for Yugoslavia to also join the
After a number of delays, Prince Paul and Prime Minister Cvetković
signed the Pact on 25 March, but the following day there were
demonstrations in Belgrade, with protesters chanting "Better the grave
than a slave, better a war than the pact". In the early hours of 27
March a bloodless military coup d'état was executed. In the wake
of the coup, the new government refused to ratify Yugoslavia's signing
of the Tripartite Pact, but did not openly rule it out. The coup
found little support with the Croatian population, and on the day
after the invasion commenced Maček resigned from the government and
Zagreb in anticipation of unrest.
Invasion and establishment of the Independent State of Croatia
Stepinac greeting the
Ustaše leader Ante Pavelić
Hitler was furious when he learned of the coup, and later on 27 March
1941 he ordered the invasion of Yugoslavia. Commencing on 6 April, a
German-led Axis invasion force began its assault from multiple
directions, quickly overcoming the limited resistance. During the
fighting, several Croat units mutinied and others performed poorly or
defected. On 10 April 1941, with the assistance of the Germans, the
Ustaše figure in the country, Slavko Kvaternik, proclaimed the
establishment of the Independent State of
Croatia (Croatian: Nezavisna
Država Hrvatska, NDH). German tanks entered
Zagreb later that same
day and were greeted by cheering crowds.
Before the war the
Ustaše were a fascist, ultranationalist, racist
and terrorist organization, fighting for an independent Croatia.
Ustaše terrorists set off bombs on international trains bound for
Yugoslavia, and were convicted in the 1934 assassination of the
Yugoslav King and French foreign Minister in Marseilles. Ante
Pavelić, Kvaternik and other
Ustaše leaders were sentenced to death
in absentia by French courts, as the true assassination
Ustaše “17 Principles” proclaimed that those
who were not of Croat blood (i.e.
Serbs and Jews), will not have any
political role in the future Croat state. In his 1936 tract, “The
Croat Question”, the
Ustaše leader, Pavelić, spouted anti-Serb and
anti-Semitic hatred, calling Jews the enemy of the Croat people.
On 12 April, Stepinac visited Kvaternik and pledged his loyalty to the
NDH. The following day, when the
Ustaše leader Ante Pavelić
arrived in Zagreb, Stepinac did not participate in the welcome, but he
did visit Pavelić on 16 April. These meetings and a radio broadcast
all occurred prior to the capitulation of the Yugoslav armed forces on
17 April. During this meeting, Pavelić stated that he would not
be tolerant toward the
Serbian Orthodox Church
Serbian Orthodox Church because it was a
political organisation rather than a church. That evening, Stepinac
hosted a dinner party for Pavelić and the leading Ustaše. On 27
April, Stepinac recorded in his diary that Pavelić appeared to be "a
sincere Catholic and that the Church would enjoy freedom to carry out
its work", although he recognised that difficulties lay ahead. On
the same day, the official Croatian Catholic newspaper Nedelja praised
both Pavelić and Hitler, saying:
God, who directs the destiny of nations and controls the hearts of
kings, has given us
Ante Pavelić and moved the leader of friendly and
allied people, Adolf Hitler, to use his victorious troops to disperse
our oppressors and enable us to create an Independent State of
Croatia. Glory be to God, our gratitude to Adolf Hitler, and infinite
loyalty to our Poglavnik, Ante Pavelić.
On 28 April, Stepinac issued a "rapturous" encyclical to his diocese
regarding the creation of the "young Croatian state", which
included the words:
Our people has come face to face with its age-old and ardently desired
dream. The times are such that it is no longer the tongue which speaks
but the blood with its mysterious links with the country, in which we
have seen the light of God, and with its people from whom we spring.
Do we need to say that the blood flows more quickly in our veins, that
the hearts in our breasts beat faster?... It is easy to see God's hand
at work here.
Stepinac urged the clergy of his archdiocese to fulfill their duty to
the new Croatian state and pray that the head of state, i.e. the
Ustashe leader Pavelić, "may have the spirit and wisdom in order to
fulfill noble and responsible office for the glory of God and the
salvation of the people in truth and justice". Stepinac's letter
captured what was a common sentiment among Croatian nationalists and
much of the
Catholic Church in the new state. Considering the
marginal role of the Church in the political arena during the interwar
period, the creation of the NDH appeared to offer the Church and the
Croatian Catholic movement
Croatian Catholic movement an opportunity. The leaders of the new
state appeared willing to work with Church leaders, and thus reduce
the marginalisation the Church had been subject to under the Yugoslav
Stepinac's immediate visits to Kvaternik and Pavelić, and his
diocesan letter all assisted the
Ustaše in consolidating their
control of the new state, and enhanced its credibility with the
Croatian people. Cornwell notes that this letter was issued on the
same day that nearly 200
Serbs were massacred by the
Bjelovar. Even prior to Stepinac’s letter,
Volksdeutche had already destroyed the Osijek synagogue (April 14),
and on April 17 Pavelić had issued the Decree on the Protection of
the Nation and the State, the first of the acts that placed Serbs,
Jews and Roma outside the law, leading to their persecution and
Ustaše had opened and started filling their
first concentration camp (April 15), and had instituted additional
discriminatory edicts against Jews and
Serbs (April 14, 19, 22 and
25). Stepinac already knew of the planned racial laws, which Pavelić
signed only 2 days after Stepinac issued his letter praising Pavelić
On April 30, 1941 Pavelić signed the main Race Laws - the Legal
Decree on Racial Origins, and the Legal Decree on the Protection of
Aryan Blood and the Honor of the Croatian People. In May 1941 Pavelić
visited the Pope. Phayer writes that Stepinac arranged the audience
with Pius XII, and “recommended the dictator to the Holy
See”. Ester Gitman writes that “Stepinac chose not to join
Pavelić” and that he was given a private audience with the
Pope. Pavelić put pressure on Archbishop Stepinac to write to
Pope Pius XII, via Cardinal Maglione, to request official recognition
of the Independent State of Croatia. The answer came back in July
- in accordance with long-standing tradition during wartime, no
Vatican recognition of the ISC was forthcoming. But the
Pope did send
Abbott Marcone as his apostolic visitor, who acted as papal nuncio,
which satisfied Stepinac, since he felt "the Vatican had de facto
recognized the new state”.
Pavelić met Hitler for the first time on 7 June 1941, and told him
that many younger clergy were supportive of the
Ustaše regime, but
mentioned that Stepinac had advised him that he could only rule if he
was "as forebearing as possible". Biondich notes that Stepinac was
unhappy that many younger priests were overtly supporting the
Ustaše. On 26 June 1941, Stepinac met with the Archbishop of
Vrhbosna and the bishops of Belgrade, Banja Luka, Split, Hvar,
Šibenik and Senj-Modruš. The Bishop of Mostar sent a friar to the
meeting. The group decided to go to Pavelić to express their devotion
and trust. At the reception with Pavelić, Stepinac stated that "love
of religion and country spring only from God", then promised Pavelić
their loyalty and co-operation.
Despite initially welcoming the Independent State of Croatia, Stepinac
subsequently condemned the Nazi-aligned state's atrocities against
Jews and Serbs. He objected to the persecution of Jews and Nazi
laws, helped Jews and others to escape and criticized Ustaše
atrocities in front of
Zagreb Cathedral in 1943. Despite this,
Stepinac never broke with the
Ustaše regime and continued to attend
public gatherings at their side.
After the invasion and Italian annexation of much of the Dalmatian
coast, the ecclesiastical province of the
included the Archdiocese of Zagreb, as well as the dioceses of Đakovo
and Senj-Modruš, and the Greek Catholic Bishopric of Križevci.
Stepinac had very limited formal authority over the suffragan bishops
of his province, being more of a "first among equals" than a superior.
He did not have the power to dictate policy or control the behaviour
of the Sarajevo-based Archbishop of Vrhbosna or the other bishops in
Relations with the government
According to John Fine, Stepinac enjoyed close associations with the
Ustaše leaders, as he was the archbishop of the capital. In
contrast to this view, in mid-May 1941, Maglione was already noting
that Stepinac and other bishops were treading cautiously with the NDH
authorities to avoid "compromising themselves" with the Ustaše
leadership. In July 1941, no
Te Deum was sung at the Zagreb
Cathedral in celebration of Pavelić's birthday, which contributed to
tension between Stepinac and the
Ustaše leader. In December 1941,
Pavelić met with the Italian foreign minister, Count Galeazzo Ciano,
and told him that the lower levels of Catholic clergy displayed a very
positive attitude towards the
Ustaše regime, but that some of the
bishops were openly hostile to the government. Cornwell states
that Stepinac was "wholly in accord with the general goals of the new
In November 1941, Stepinac chaired a bishop's conference, during which
he heard reports from various bishops within the NDH. What he heard
made his enthusiasm wane for the new Croatian state. On 20 November he
wrote to Pavelić including some of the reports he had received. He
stated that he believed that the worst of the atrocities were over,
and that he believed they were the work of individuals. The letter did
challenge Pavelić, stating that "no-one can deny that these terrible
acts of violence and cruelty have been taking place", pointing out
that Pavelić himself had condemned the atrocities committed by the
Ustaše. He said, "The Croatian nation has been proud of its
1000-year-old culture and Christian tradition. That is why we wait for
it to show in practice, now that it has achieved its freedom, a
greater nobility and humanity than that displayed by its former
On more than one occasion, the archbishop professed his support for
the Independent State of
Croatia and welcomed the demise of
Yugoslavia, and continued to do so throughout the war. On 10 April
each year during the war he celebrated a mass to celebrate
proclamation of the NDH.[page needed] Pavelić attended
Zagreb Cathedral only once in the four years he was in
power, and Stepinac did not greet him at the entrance on that
occasion. Stepinac lost control of the Archdiocese's publication
Katolički List under the new regime. In 1942, officials from
Hungary lobbied to ecclesiastically attach Hungarian-occupied
Međimurje to a diocese in Hungary. Stepinac opposed this and received
guarantees from the
Holy See that diocesan boundaries would not change
during the war.[page needed] On 26 October 1943, the Germans
killed the archbishop's brother Mijo.[page needed] In 1944,
Stepinac received the Polish Pauline priest Salezy Strzelec, who wrote
about the archbishop, Zagreb, and
Marija Bistrica upon his return to
According to Tanner, Stepinac remained naive about politics and the
nature of the
Ustaše regime. In 1943, Stepinac travelled to the
Vatican and came into contact with the Croatian artist Ivan
Meštrović. According to Meštrović, Stepinac asked him whether
he thought Pavelić knew about the killings of Serbs. When Meštrović
replied that Pavelić must know everything, Stepinac went pale and
burst into tears.
Martin Gilbert wrote that despite initially welcoming
the Independent State of Croatia, Stepinac later "condemned Croat
atrocities against both
Serbs and Jews, and himself saved a group of
Jews in an old age home". According to West, Stepinac and the
Catholic Church remained loyal to Pavelić and the NDH.
West states that Stepinac was one of the priests and father-confessors
Ustaše such as Pavelić, Budak, Kvaternik and
Stepinac (far right) with two Catholic priests at the funeral of
President of the
Marko Došen in September 1944
In May 1943, Stepinac wrote to the Vatican secretary of state,
Cardinal Luigi Maglione, and the contents of the letter reveal aspects
of the attitude of the Croatian
Catholic Church towards the NDH.
Stepinac referred to complaints made by the Yugoslav
government-in-exile to the Vatican claiming that the Church had not
done its duty towards persecuted members of the Orthodox Church, and
also that the
Catholic Church had approved and arranged measures such
as forced conversions. Stepinac described these complaints as "enemy
propaganda" aimed at bringing the NDH into disrepute in the eyes of
the Vatican. He admitted that atrocities had been committed against
Serbs by irresponsible people without the sanction of the NDH
authorities, and claimed that many of those responsible had been
executed by the government. He deplored and condemned the atrocities,
but stated that they were a reaction to Serb behaviour during the
interwar period during which, he claimed,
Serbs had violated all the
rights of the Croatian people. He also reminded the Cardinal of the
assassination of the Croatian deputies in the Parliament in 1928. His
letter pointed out that the NDH authorities had taken a lot of actions
that were seen as positive by the Church, including opposing abortion,
Freemasonry and communism. Other actions of benefit to
the Church mentioned by Stepinac included the Christian education of
soldiers, religious education in schools, financial support for
seminaries, church-building and maintenance, increased salaries for
the clergy, and support for Church charitable work.
In 1944, the NDH Ministry for Justice and Religion proposed, and
Stepinac accepted the Order of Merit medal from Pavelić, for
”having as archbishop unmasked inside and outside the country the
opponents of the Independent State of Croatia”
Catholic Church in the NDH began to criticise actions taken by the
government, and attempted to distance itself to some extent from the
authorities. It had no real alternative, given that the likely
alternate governments were led by Serb-chauvinist
communists. Instead, the Church maintained its support of the NDH
government to the bitter end. This is demonstrated by the pastoral
letter issued after the episcopal conference of 24 March 1945, in
which the Croatian
Catholic Church maintained its formal support for
the puppet state and its rulers, despite the fact that most senior
regime figures were preparing to flee the country. The Catholic
press in the NDH also maintained its support of Pavelić right to the
Biondich concludes that claims that Stepinac was an Ustaše
sympathiser, and even the spiritual leader of the regime are
unfounded. He further states that while Stepinac supported
independence, he "began privately to distance himself from the regime
within weeks, and certainly within months of the Croatian state's
formation." He also observes that while Stepinac continued to attend
to his ceremonial duties at official state events, he was privately
raising his concerns with the
On the other hand, historian Robert McCormick states, “tor all the
Archbishop’s hand wringing, he continued to be a tacit participant
in the Independent State of
Croatia (ISC). He repeatedly appeared in
public with the
Ustaše leader Ante Pavelić), and
issued Te Deum’s on the anniversary of the ISC’s creation. His
failure to publicly denounce the Ustaše’s atrocities in the name of
the ISC, was tantamount to accepting Pavelić’s policies".
On April 10, 1945., Stepinac held a mass in the
Zagreb Cathedral for
the 4th anniversary of the ISC’s founding, and Te Deum’s were sung
for what was left of the
Ustaše state. Mark West notes that, on
April 15, as Pavelić and other
Ustaše leaders were getting ready to
flee, “Archishop Stepinac devoted his sermon to what he believed was
Croatia’s worst sin, not mass murder, but swearing”
The atrocities committed by the
Ustaše can be categorised into four
broad areas, all of which fell largely on the Serb population of the
NDH; racial laws, mass killings and concentration camps, deportations,
and forced conversions to Catholicism.
Ustaše Race Laws, yet at as the historian Ivo
Goldstein notes, at first he seemed to concede the validity of these
laws, while seeking to modify them. Thus, on April 23, 1941, Stepinac
wrote to the
Ustaše Interior Minister, Artuković, "on the occasion
of the announced passage of anti-Jewish laws”, to caution of “good
Catholics who are of the Jewish race and who have converted from the
Jewish religion...I consider that it would be necessary, in passing
the necessary laws, to take converts of this kind into account."
Thus, Stepinac viewed Race Laws as “necessary”, but that they
should not apply to Jewish converts to
Catholicism (Stepinac knew the
Ustaše were preparing Race Laws when he supported the
Pavelić in his letter of April 28, 1941, issued 2 days before
Pavelić signed the race laws)
Stepinac again wrote to Artuković on 22 May to protest the Race Laws
and their application to converted Jews, telling him that members of
other races should not be discriminated against "through no fault of
their own." He wrote, "We... appeal to you to issue regulations so
that even in the framework of antisemitic legislation, and similar
legislation concerning Serbs, the principles of human dignity be
preserved.". Stepinac added: “Everyone will certainly approve
the attempt for the economy to be in national hands, not to allow a
non-national and anti-national element to amass capital, or foreign
elements to decide about the State and the people. But to take away
any possibility of existence from members of other peoples or other
races, and to brand them with the stamp of shame, this is an issue of
humanity and a question of morality”. Thus “everyone
approved” of removing “non-national” elements (i.e.
Jews) from political and economic life, but Stepinac protests this
should not go too far
As Goldstein notes, Stepinac seemingly argued for “humane” Race
Laws. On 24 May 1942, Stepinac condemned racial persecution in general
terms, though he did not specifically mention Serbs. He stated in a
All men and all races are children of God; all without distinction.
Those who are Gypsies, Black, European, or Aryan all have the same
rights (...) for this reason, the
Catholic Church had always
condemned, and continues to condemn, all injustice and all violence
committed in the name of theories of class, race, or nationality. It
is not permissible to persecute Gypsies or Jews because they are
thought to be an inferior race.
In a sermon on 25 October 1942, he further commented on racial
We affirm then that all peoples and races descend from God. In fact,
there exists but one race...The members of this race can be white or
black, they can be separated by oceans or live on the opposing poles,
[but] they remain first and foremost the race created by God,
according to the precepts of natural law and positive Divine law as it
is written in the hearts and minds of humans or revealed by Jesus
Christ, the son of God, the sovereign of all peoples.
In his homily of October 31, 1943, described as his most direct
critique of the Ustaše, Stepinac first inveighed against abortion,
the “pagan fashions of today’s female world” and “all the
licentiousness ...that has been observed… at sea beaches and other
bathing spots”. He blames these "sins" for the fact that "God like
thunder today brings down not just cities and villages, but entire
peoples”. The speech’s primary theme is the defense of the
Church’s actions, against those who “accuse us of not having
arisen in timely or appropriate fashion against the crimes in parts of
Stepinac states that “the Church cannot force others to behave
according to God’s laws” and cannot be responsible for “the
hotheads in its own priestly ranks” (i.e. the priests who supported
or participated in
Ustaše crimes). He proclaims it was not the Church
that "created in the souls of people the dissatisfaction and
insatiability which has produced such sad consequences", instead he
blames "certain circles, organizations, and members of other national
groups", i.e. Serbs, and perhaps also Jews.
Stepinac then criticizes at length Communism, its denial of private
property rights, its approval of divorce, negation of God, refusal to
allow religious education in schools, etc. Only after this does he
Ustaše crimes, stating “The
Catholic Church does not know
races that lord over others, or slave races. The
Catholic Church knows
only races and peoples as the creatures of God, and if it values some
more, it is those of noble heart, and not of stronger fist. For her, a
king in the royal palace is a man, in the same way as the last pauper
and gypsy under a tent … The system of shooting hundreds of hostages
for a crime in which no culprit can be found is a pagan system that
never yielded a good fruit”
Yet even in this speech Stepinac fails to condemn the
Ustaše by name
(unlike the Communists and even “women’s fashions”). Instead he
condemns in general terms “all the wrongdoing, all the killing of
the innocent, all the burning of villages”. Much of his public
criticism was spoken after most of the genocides were already
completed, and it became clear the Nazis and
Ustaše would lose. These
belated speeches were made before limited audiences, unlike his
pastoral letter, condemning the Communists, that he ordered read from
all the pulpits across Croatia, only 4 months after the Communists
In a letter to the Vatican of May 1943, Stepinac still praised the
Ustaše for the “good things” they had done, including the
“strict ban on all pornographic publications, which were first and
foremost published by Jews and Orthodox!”. Stepinac continued
to support until the very end the same
Ustaše state that continued to
maintain Nazi-style Race Laws, and continued to kill people based on
Stepinac was involved directly and indirectly in efforts to save Jews
from persecution. Amiel Shomrony, alias Emil Schwartz, was the
personal secretary of
Miroslav Šalom Freiberger
Miroslav Šalom Freiberger (the chief rabbi in
Zagreb) until 1942. In the actions for saving Jews, Shomrony acted as
the mediator between the chief rabbi and Stepinac. He later stated
that he considered Stepinac "truly blessed" since he did the best he
could for the Jews during the war. Allegedly the
Ustaša government at this point agitated at the
Holy See for him to
be removed from the position of archbishop of Zagreb, this however was
refused due to the fact that the Vatican did not recognize the Ustaše
state (despite Italian pressure). Stepinac and the papal nuncio
Belgrade mediated with Royal Italian, Hungarian and Bulgarian
troops, urging that the Yugoslav Jews be allowed to take refuge in the
occupied Balkan territories to avoid deportation. He also arranged for
Jews to travel via these territories to the safe, neutral states of
Turkey and Spain, along with Istanbul-based nuncio Angelo
Roncalli. He sent some Jews for safety to Rev. Dragutin Jeish,
who was killed during the war by the
Ustaše on suspicion of
supporting the Partisans.
Mass killings and concentration camps
A Serb family massacred in their home by the
Ustaše in 1941
Ustaše unleashed a reign of terror in which 80% of the Jews
(30.000 people) in the ISC were killed, as well as practically all the
Roma (25.000 people), and almost 20% of the Serb population (340.000
people – see: Number of victims). Stepinac initially responded to
these mass killings with private letters of protest. Thus, on 14 May
1941, Stepinac received word of an
Ustaše massacre of Serb villagers
at Glina. On the same day, he wrote to Pavelić saying:
Just now I received news that the
Ustaše in Glina executed without
trial and investigation 260 Serbs. I know that the
some major crimes in our homeland in these last twenty years. But I
consider it my bishop's responsibility to raise my voice and to say
that this is not permitted according to Catholic teaching, which is
why I ask that you undertake the most urgent measures on the entire
territory of the Independent State of Croatia, so that not a single
Serb is killed unless it is shown that he committed a crime warranting
death. Otherwise, we will not be able to count on the blessing of
heaven, without which we must perish.
According to Biondich, in the first weeks or even months after the
establishment of the NDH, Stepinac may have not known that the
atrocities perpetrated by the
Ustaše were a key component of their
plan. This view supposes that Stepinac considered the atrocities were
either spontaneous or the result of so-called "irresponsible elements"
who would be held to account by the authorities. His correspondence
with Pavelić tends to suggest he did not believe that the Poglavnik
would have sanctioned such actions. Although Stepinac was firmly
opposed to the idea of
Ustaše to establish a concentration camp
within the borders of the Đakovo Bishop's domain, the Đakovo
concentration camp was established in the deserted flour mill owned by
the Diocese of Đakovo on 1 December 1941.
On the other hand, Phayer writes, "it is impossible to believe that
Stepinac and the Vatican did not know that the Ustasha murders
amounted to genocide", given the "repression and terrorism of the
Ustasha regime were without parallel in the history of Southeastern
Europe". Stepinac clearly knew of the May 1941 Glina massacre,
and early on that the
Ustaše state was sending Jews,
Serbs and others
to concentration camps. Initially, Stepinac did not oppose these
deportations of Jews and others to concentration camps as a matter of
principle, but pleaded they be carried out “humanely”, by
proposing to Pavelić, on July 21, 1941, the introduction of “some
particulars to mitigate the procedure: a) for people to be sent to
camp in such a way to allow them to prepare what would be the most
essential, to allow them to arrange their most urgent obligations both
to their families and their jobs; b) for transport not to be in
crowded sealed railway cars, especially to distant places; c) to give
internees enough food; d) to provide those who are ill with medical
treatment; e) to allow the most necessary food to be sent to them, and
enable them to correspond with their families.".
After the release of left-wing activist Ante Ciliga from Jasenovac in
January 1943, Stepinac requested a meeting with him to learn about
what was occurring at the camp. After seven Slovene priests were
killed at Jasenovac, Stepinac wrote to Pavelić on 24 February 1943,
This is a shameful blot and crime which cries to heaven for revenge,
as the whole Jasenovac camp is a shameful fault for the Independent
State of Croatia... the entire public, and especially the relatives of
the killed priests, ask for compensation and satisfaction and ask that
the killers, who are the greatest misfortune for Croatia, be brought
before a court of justice.
These were still private protest letters. Although later in 1942 and
1943, Stepinac started to speak out more openly against the Ustaše
genocides, this was after most of the genocides were already
committed, and it became increasingly clear the Nazis and
be defeated. Additionally, Stepinac never publicly condemned the
Ustaše genocide, that against the Serbs, 
and Stepinac continued to support until the very end the
that committed these crimes.
Addressing defenders of Stepinac’s more private approach, Ivo
Goldstein notes that “relatively more persecuted Jews were saved
when high church dignitaries openly, energetically and in a principled
manner opposed this persecution – as in
France (especially the
Archbishops of Toulouse and Lyon), the Netherlands, Italy and Denmark,
and for a time even in
Germany itself. Catholic bishops in Slovakia
strongly opposed Nazi demands for radical deportations and thus saved
the lives of many converted Jews, and the Orthodox Metropolitan Stefan
in Sofia, by tireless public defense of Jewish lives, played a
fundamental role in preventing even one Jew from being deported to the
Nazi camps from Bulgaria”. In nearly all these cases a much
greater percent of the Jewish population survived, compared to the
nearly 80% of Jews exterminated in the Independent State of Croatia,
along with practically the entire Roma population, and nearly
one-fifth of Serbs.
Stepinac again wrote to Pavelić on 21 July 1941 in the wake of mass
Serbs from the NDH and the attendant massacres,
stating he was sure that Pavelić was not aware of the atrocities, and
that others might not be willing to tell him about them. He wrote that
this situation meant there was an even greater obligation on Stepinac
to bring them to Pavelić's attention. Further, he said he had
received information from different sources regarding "inhumane and
brutal treatment... during the deportations and at the camps, and even
worse, that neither children, old people or the sick are spared."
Having heard that some of the deportees were recent converts to
Catholicism, he had a duty to show greater concern regarding them. He
asked that "humane and Christian consideration... be shown especially
to weak old people, young and innocent children, and the sick."
According to Biondich, it is highly likely that Stepinac shared these
concerns with the Vatican.
When deportation of Croatian Jews began, Stepinac and the papal envoy
Giuseppe Marcone protested to Andrija Artukovic.
Pope Pius XII
had dispatched Marcone as Apostolic Visitor to Croatia, reportedly in
order to assist Stepinac and the Croatian Episcopate in "combating the
evil influence of neo-pagan propaganda which could be exercised in the
organization of the new state". Marcone served as
Nuncio in all
In a circular letter to his clergy, Stepinac initially insisted that
conversion had to be done freely, and only after religious
instruction. While this and subsequent regulations were designed to
protect “the church hierarchy against charges of promoting forced
conversions”, they also indicated “the church was willing to
cooperate with regime’s forced conversions, provided the canonical
rules were followed”. Indeed, on December 3, 1941 Stepinac sent
the pope a report, wherein he notes “the best prospects exist for
However, the churches instructions were ignored by the Ustaše
authorities. The authorities not only conducted forcible conversions,
but on occasion they used the prospect of conversion as a means to
Serbs together so they could kill them, which is what occurred
at Glina. Some
Serbs demanded that the local Catholic clergy convert
them in order to save their lives. Later Stepinac advised
individual priests to admit Orthodox believers to the Catholic Church
if their lives were in danger, such that this conversion had no
validity, allowing them to return to their faith once the danger
On May 18, 1943 Stepinac wrote a letter to the pope, in which he
estimated 240.000 conversions to date (despite some disputes
Tomasevich states this letter is authentic). The Catholic Church
Croatia has also had to contend with criticism of what some have
seen as a passive stance towards the Ustaša policy of religious
conversion whereby some
Serbs – but not the intelligentsia element
– were able to escape other persecution by adopting the Catholic
faith. According to Cornwell, through his role in the forced
conversions, Stepinac displayed a "moral dislocation" that "endorsed a
contempt for religious freedom tantamount to complicity with the
While Stepinac did suspend a number of priests, including Ivo Guberina
and Zvonko Brekalo, he only had the authority to do so within his own
diocese; he had no power to suspend other priests or bishops outside
of Zagreb, as that power was reserved for the Vatican. Due to the
arbitrary nature of justice in the NDH and the absence of proper
systems for complaint and redress, people such as Stepinac developed
an approach of intervening personally with senior government figures
on behalf of victims.
Other crimes against the Serbian Orthodox Church
In addition to forced conversions, Tomasevich describes other elements
of the “
Ustaše massive attack against the Serbian Orthodox
Ustaše killed 157 Orthodox priests, among them 3
Serb Orthodox bishops (cutting the throat of the bishop of Banja Luka
and killing the archbishop of Sarajevo), while they jailed and
tortured the Orthodox archbishop of Zagreb. The
Ustaše expelled to
Serbia 327 Orthodox priests and one bishop, while 2 other bishops and
12 priests left on their own. Thus 85% of the Orthodox priests in
the Independent State of
Croatia were either killed or expelled by the
Ustaše, in order to “leave the Orthodox population without
spiritual leadership so the Ustađas’ policy of forced or
fear-induced conversions to
Catholicism would be easier to carry
Ustaše destroyed and desecrated numerous Orthodox Churches,
forbade the Cyrillic script and Julian calendar (both used in the
Orthodox Church), even prohibited the term “Serbian Orthodox
Church”. Orthodox schools were shut down, and the Church was
prohibited from collecting contributions from believers, robbing it of
income. Orthodox Church properties were confiscated by the
Ustaše, some turned over to the Croatian Catholic Church.
Finally, to destroy the Serbian Orthodox Church, the
Ustaše tried to
create its own, alternative Croatian Orthodox Church, with an imported
Russian priest. but failed to gain adherents
Despite these many actions by the
Ustaše to destroy the Serbian
Orthodox Church, Tomasevich found no condemnations of these crimes,
public or private, by Stepinac or any other members of the Croatian
Catholic Church. On the contrary, he states that this massive Ustaše
attack on the
Serbian Orthodox Church
Serbian Orthodox Church “was approved and supported by
many Croatian Catholic priests”, and that the Croatian Catholic
Church hierarchy and the Vatican “regarded
Ustaše policies against
Serbian Orthodox Church
Serbian Orthodox Church as advantageous to Roman
Overall assessments of Stepinac's actions during WWII
Tomasevich assesses Stepinac's wartime words and deeds in three
categories : (1) Private actions to help certain individuals and
groups, where he states Stepinac "deserves highest praise, although
his actions were not always successful”, (2) Proclamations of
general human rights, expressed in his sermons at first
“occasionally and mildly”, but more strongly after 1943 (after the
Ustashe had already perpetrated most of the genocides, and it was
clear the Nazis and Ustashe would be defeated), also deserve
praise, and (3) Statements dealing with overall Church policy
toward the wartime Croatian state. Here Tomasevich states “there are
serious shortcomings in Stepinac’s statements and actions toward the
Ustashe regime and its genocidal actions against the
Serbs and the
Serbian Orthodox Church”
Thus, despite the Ustashe genocide against the Serbs, the ethnic
cleansing and forced conversions, the killings and expulsions of most
Orthodox priests, the destruction and desecration of many Orthodox
Churches, “neither Archbishop Stepinac, nor any other Catholic
bishop in the state…uttered one word of public protest” against
these crimes. “This was not a mere oversight. It was a
deliberate policy” as stated by the papal legate Abbot Marcone, when
he wrote in 1943 that given the fact that most guerrillas were
“schismatics” (i.e. Eastern-Orthodox Serbs) “our Croatian
episcopate does not have any special motive to protest publicly
against the government in favor of the schismatics” In
Stepinac's case this was compounded by his “dim view of Orthodoxy
and thought that an unbridgeable gulf existed between
Serbs”. Additionally, given both Stepinac's and the Vatican’s
desire to see a Catholic state in
Croatia and have a legate there,
“the Church had to refrain from publicly criticizing the
Tomasevich concludes "the policy of the Croatian Catholic Church
hierarchy and the Vatican of not publicly condemning the Ustasha
regime's actions during the war will probably remain controversial.
From the standpoint of humanity, justice and common decency, it cannot
be defended. But Stepinac was not the only one responsible for it, the
Vatican was too" 
See also: Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Stepinac at a post-war communist rally in September 1945. From left:
three dignitaries of the Orthodox Church, the Partisan General
Commanding of Zagreb, the Secretary to the Apostolic Visitor,
Auxiliary Bishop Dr. Josip Lach, Archbishop Stepinac, People's Premier
Croatia Dr. Vladimir Bakaric, Soviet Military Attache, Minister of
the Interior Dr. Hebrang.
Our Lady of Marija Bistrica, where
Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II beatified
Stepinac before 500,000 Croatians
After the war, on 17 May 1945, Stepinac was arrested.
On 2 June, Yugoslav leader
Josip Broz Tito
Josip Broz Tito met with representatives of
the Archdiocese of Zagreb, during which he advocated the idea
Catholic Church could do more for the people if it was
independent of the Vatican" and more "national", like the Serbian
Orthodox Church. The following day, Stepinac was released from
custody. One day later, Stepinac met with Tito, during which Tito's
prime goal was to promote the idea of an autonomous Catholic Church
for Yugoslavia with its own primate. This was consistent with the
policy of the Yugoslav government in the immediate post-war
On 22 June, the bishops of
Croatia released a public letter accusing
the Yugoslav authorities of injustices and crimes towards them. On 28
June, Stepinac wrote a letter to the government of
Croatia asking for
an end to the prosecution of Nazi collaborationists
(collaboration having been widespread in occupied Yugoslavia). On 10
July, Stepinac's secretary Stjepan Lacković travelled to Rome. While
he was there, the Yugoslav authorities forbade him to return.[citation
needed] In August, a new land reform law was introduced which
legalized the confiscation of 85 percent of church holdings in
During the same period the archbishop almost certainly had ties with
Ustaše guerrillas, the "Crusaders", and actively
worked against the state.[page needed] After fleeing with
Pavelić, Erih Lisak, the last
Ustaše chief of police, secretly
Croatia in September 1945, to organize remaining Ustaše
forces hiding in forests, and he established contact with Stepinac’s
office and Stepinac himself. Ante Moškov, a former Ustaše
general, also contacted Stepinac, and the police discovered Ustaše
files and gold hidden in the archbishopric cellars.
In September 1945, a synod of the Bishops' Conference of Yugoslavia
was held in
Zagreb which discussed the confrontation with the
government. On 20. September, Stepinac published a pastoral
letter in which he made the claim that "273 clergymen had been killed"
since the Partisan take-over, "169 had been imprisoned", and another
"89 were missing and presumed dead". The bishops also criticized
the nationalization of some Church printing shops, the fact that
religious education was made no longer mandatory in elementary
schools, and abolished in high schools, and that certain church
properties were seized and certain church functions, like charity made
more difficult. They condemned all-night dances, with young males and
females together without supervision. They strongly condemned the
introduction of civil marriages, in addition to church marriages,
whereas previously marriage was entirely controlled by the Church.
They condemned the agrarian reforms, which nationalized larger
properties, including large Church properties.
This pastoral letter was read in Catholic churches across Yugoslavia,
quite different from when Stepinac failed to issue a single pastoral
letter condemning the
Ustaše genocides against the Jews, Roma and
Serbs. The letter repeatedly condemned the Communists by name, in
great detail, while Stepinac never condemned the
Ustaše by name,
making only brief, general references to their crimes, to very limited
audiences. The letter’s extensive criticism of
against the Catholic Church, also contrasted with Stepinac’s
complete silence, noted by Tomasevich, regarding the massive Ustaše
attacks on the
Serbian Orthodox Church
Serbian Orthodox Church - e.g. the
Ustaše killing and
exiling of 85% of Orthodox priests, efforts to entirely eliminate the
Serbian church and replace it with an Ustaše-created Orthodox church,
In response to this letter Tito spoke out publicly against Stepinac
for the first time by writing an editorial on 25 October in the
communist party's newspaper Borba accusing Stepinac of declaring war
on the fledgling new Yugoslavia. Consequently, on 4 November Stepinac
had stones thrown at him by a crowd of Partisans in
Zaprešić. Tito had established "brotherhood and unity" as
the federation's overarching objective and central policy, one which
he did not want threatened by internal agitation. In addition, with
Cold War conflict and increased concerns over both
Western and Soviet infiltration (see Tito-Stalin split), the Yugoslav
government did not tolerate further internal subversion within the
potentially fragile new federation.
In an effort to put a stop to the archbishop's activities, Tito
attempted to reach an accord with Stepinac, and achieve a greater
degree of independence for the
Catholic Church in Yugoslavia and
Croatia.[page needed] Stepinac refused to break from the
Vatican, and continued to publicly condemn the communist government.
Tito, however, was reluctant to bring him to trial, in spite of
condemning evidence which was available. Abandoning the strive
towards increased Church independence, Tito first attempted to
persuade Stepinac to cease his activities. When this
too failed, in January 1946 the federal government attempted to
solicit his replacement with the Vatican, a request that was denied.
Finally, Stepinac was himself asked to leave the country, which he
refused. In September 1946 the Yugoslav authorities
indicted Stepinac on multiple counts of war crimes and collaboration
with the enemy during wartime. Milovan Đilas, a prominent leader
in the Party, stated that Stepinac would never have been brought to
trial "had he not continued to oppose the new
Stepinac publicly condemned the new Yugoslav government and its
actions during and after World War II, especially for murders of
Stepinac on trial
By September of the same year the Yugoslav authorities indicted
Stepinac on several counts—collaboration with the occupation forces,
relations with the
Ustaše regime, having chaplains in the Ustaše
army as religious agitators, forced conversions of Serb Orthodox to
Catholicism at gunpoint and high treason against the Yugoslav
government. Stepinac was arrested on 18 September 1946 and his trial
started on 30 September 1946, where he was tried alongside former
officials of the
Ustaše government including Erih Lisak (sentenced to
death) and Ivan Šalić. Altogether there were 16 defendants.[citation
The prosecution presented their evidence for the archbishop's
collaboration with the
Ustaše regime.[page needed]
Numerous witnesses were heard concerning the killings and forced
conversions members of Aloysius Stepinac's military vicariate
performed, explaining that "forced conversions" were
more often than not followed by the slaughter of the new "converts"
(which is the main cause of their infamy). In relation to these events
the prosecution pointed out that even if the archbishop did not
explicitly order them, he also did nothing to stop them or punish
those within the church who were responsible. They also pointed out
the disproportionate number of chaplains in the NDH armed
forces and attempted to present in detail his
relationship with the
Ustaše authorities. The Vatican was not
excluded of implication in these accusations.
On 3 October as part of the fourth day of the proceedings, Stepinac
gave a lengthy 38-minute speech during which he laid down his views on
the legitimacy of the trial. He claimed that the process was a "show
trial", that he was being attacked in order for the state to attack
the Church, and that "no religious conversions were done in bad
faith".[page needed] He went on to state that "My conscience
is clear and calm. If you will not give me the right, history will
give me that right", and that he did not intend to defend himself or
appeal against a conviction, and that he is prepared to take ridicule,
disdain, humiliation and death for his beliefs.[page needed]
He claimed that the military vicariate in the Independent State of
Croatia was created to address the needs of the faithful among the
soldiers and not for the army itself, nor as a sign of approval of all
action by the army. He stated that he was never an Ustaša and that
his Croatian nationalism stemmed from the nation's grievances in the
Serb-dominated Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and that he never took part in
any anti-government or terrorist activities against the state or
against Serbs.
Stepinac also mentioned 260–270 priests were summarily executed by
the Allied Yugoslav army for collaboration, which was widespread among
the Catholic clergy in many parts of the NDH, and that these summary
death sentences "uncivilized". He also spoke against the
nationalization of Church property and the newly implemented division
of church and state (prevention of Church involvement in education,
press, charitable work, and teaching of religion in school), as well
as alleged intimidation and molestation of clergy. He also complained
against atheism, spoke out against evolution, materialism, and
communism in general.
Stepinac was arrested on September 18, and was only given the
indictment on the 23rd−meaning his defense were given only six to
seven days to prepare. Stepinac's defense counsel were only
allowed to call twenty witnesses—while the prosecution was allowed
to call however many they pleased. The President of the Court refused
to hear fourteen witnesses for the defense without giving any reason
On 11 October 1946, the court found Stepinac guilty of high treason
and war crimes. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison. He served five
years in the prison at
Lepoglava until he was released in a
conciliatory gesture by Tito, on condition that he either retire to
Rome or be confined to his home parish of Krašić. He chose to stay
in Krašić, saying he would never leave "unless they put me on a
plane by force and take me over the frontier."
According to Biondich, Stepinac's conviction for high treason was
political, given that the Yugoslav authorities had a vested interest
in it. Professor Bogdan Kolar of the
University of Ljubljana
University of Ljubljana notes
that the chief trial prosecutor, Jakov Blažević, admitted in a 1985
interview with the Slovenian magazine Polet that "Stepinac's only
crime was not partaking in the separation of the Church in Croatia
from the Vatican."
In the escalating
Cold War atmosphere, and with the Vatican putting
forward worldwide publicity,[page needed] the trial was
depicted in the West as a typical communist "show trial", in which the
testimony was all false. The trial was immediately condemned by the
Holy See. All Catholics who had taken part in the court proceedings,
including most of the jury members, were excommunicated by
XII who referred to the process as the "saddest trial" (tristissimo
In the United States, one of Stepinac's biggest supporters was the
Archbishop of Boston, Richard Cushing, who delivered several sermons
in support of him. U.S. Acting Secretary of State
Dean Acheson on
11 October 1946 bemoaned the conditions in Yugoslavia and stated his
regret of the trial.
Support also came from the American Jewish Committee, who put out a
declaration that On 13 October 1946,
The New York Times
The New York Times wrote
The trial of Archbishop Stepinac was a purely political one with the
outcome determined in advance. The trial and sentence of this Croatian
prelate are in contradiction with the Yugoslavia's pledge that it will
respect human rights and the fundamental liberties of all without
reference to race, sex, language and creed. Archbishop Stepinac was
sentenced and will be incarcerated as part of the campaign against his
church, guilty only of being the enemy of Communism.
National Conference of Christians and Jews
National Conference of Christians and Jews at the Bronx Round
Table adopted a unanimous resolution on 13 October condemning the
This great churchman has been charged with being a collaborator with
the Nazis. We Jews deny that. We know from his record since 1934, that
he was a true friend of the Jews...This man, now the victim of a sham
trial, all during the Nazi regime spoke out openly, unafraid, against
the dreadful Nuremberg Laws, and his opposition to the Nazi terrorism
was never relaxed.
In Britain, on 23 October 1946, Mr Richard Stokes MP declared in the
House of Commons that,
[T]he archbishop was our constant ally in 1941, during the worst of
the crisis, and thereafter, at a time when the Orthodox Church, which
is now comme il faut with the Tito Government, was shaking hands with
On 1 November 1946
Winston Churchill addressed the House of Commons on
the subject of the trial, expressing "great sadness" at the
This trial was prepared in the political sphere. It was for the
purpose of dividing the
Catholic Church in
Croatia from its leadership
at the Vatican. Tito has openly expressed this purpose....The trial
was not based on justice, but was an outrage on justice. Tito's regime
has no interest in justice. It seeks only to stifle
[Stepinac] was one of the very rare men in Europe who raised his voice
against the Nazis' tyranny at a time when it was very difficult and
dangerous for him to do so.
Annulment of the verdict
On July 22, 2016,
Zagreb County Court annulled the verdict in the
review process, requested by the Archbishop's nephew Boris Stepinac,
"due to gross violations of current and former fundamental principles
of substantive and procedural criminal law". While explaining the
verdict, Judge Ivan Turudić stated that the verdict had violated the
principle of the right to a fair trial, appeal and a reasoned court
decision, as well as the principle of the prohibition of forced labour
and the rule of law, adding that it was enough to read some parts of
the minutes of the trial, which demonstrated that the court mainly
analyzed evidence that instructed witnesses for the prosecution to
charge the defendant and that the actual decision in reality was not
made by the court but by prosecutor Jakov Blažević. Judge Turudić
criticized the fact that the verdict was not explained, but that the
Court just repeated general allegations from the indictment, as well
as the fact that the goal of the process was revenge against Cardinal
Stepinac, moral disqualification of him and the Catholic Church. In
conclusion, Judge Turudić stated that the verdict has been revised
after nearly 70 years which has a profound significance for the
history of the Croatian people.
Bust of Stepinac at the village of Rozga near Zagreb.
Stepinac's grave in the
In Stepinac's absence, archbishop of
Belgrade Josip Ujčić became
acting president of the Bishops' Conference of Yugoslavia, a position
he held until Stepinac's death. In March 1947 the president of
the People's Republic of
Vladimir Bakarić made an official
Lepoglava prison to see Stepinac. He offered him to sign
an amnesty plea to Yugoslavia's leader Josip Broz who would in turn
allow Stepinac to leave the country. Instead, Stepinac gave Bakarić a
request to Broz that he be retried by a neutral court. He also
offered to explain his actions to the Croatian people on the largest
square in Zagreb. A positive response was not received from
During his imprisonment, Stepinac condemned the "clerical societies"
being encouraged by the government as a way of developing more
The 1947 pilgrimage to
Marija Bistrica attracted 75,000 people.
Dragutin Saili had been in charge of the pilgrimage on the part of the
Yugoslav authorities. At a meeting of the Central Committee on 1
August 1947 Saili was chastised for allowing pictures of Stepinac to
be carried during the pilgrimage, as long as the pictures were
alongside those of Yugoslav leader Josip Broz. Marko Belinić
responded to the report by saying, "Saili's path, his poor cooperation
with the Local Committee, is a deadly thing".
In February 1949, the
United States House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives approved
a resolution condemning Stepinac's imprisonment, with the Senate
following suit several months later.
Aloysius Stepinac eventually
served five years of his sixteen-year sentence for high treason in the
Lepoglava prison, where he received preferred treatment in recognition
of his clerical status. He was allocated two cells for personal use
and an additional cell as his private chapel, while being exempt of
all hard labor.
In 1950, a group of United States senators made foreign aid to
Yugoslavia conditional on Stepinac's release. On 11 November
1951, Cyrus L. Sulzberger from the
New York Times
New York Times visited Stepinac in
Lepoglava. He won the Pulitzer Prize for the interview.
A visiting congressional delegation from the United States, including
Clement J. Zablocki
Clement J. Zablocki and Edna F. Kelly, pressed to see Stepinac in late
November 1951. Their request was denied by the Yugoslav authorities,
Josip Broz Tito
Josip Broz Tito assured the delegation that Stepinac would be
released within a month. Stepinac was released as a precondition
for American aid, on the condition that he either retire to
Rome or be
confined to his home parish of Krašić. He refused to leave
Yugoslavia and opted to live in
Krašić under a form of house arrest,
to which he was transferred on 5 December 1951. He lived in the parish
presbytery and was able to say Mass in the adjacent church. He stated
that: "They will never make me leave unless they put me on a plane by
force and take me over the frontier. It is my duty in these difficult
times to stay with the people."
At a meeting of the Central Committee of the
Communist Party of
Croatia on 5 October 1951, the Croatian Prime Minister Ivan Krajačić
said, "In America they are printing the book Crvena ruža na oltaru
(Roses Roses on the Altar) of 350 pages, in which is described the
entire Stepinac process. Religious education is particularly recently
being taught on a large scale. We should do something about this. We
could ban religious education. We could ban religious education in
schools, but they will then pass it into their churches". On 31
January 1952 the Yugoslav authorities abolished religious education in
state-run public schools, as part of the programme of separating
church and state in Yugoslavia. In April, Stepinac told a journalist
from Belgium's La Libertea, "I am greatly concerned about Catholic
youth. In schools they are carrying out intensive communist
propaganda, based on negating the truth".
On 29 November 1952, his name appeared in a list of cardinals to be
newly created by
Pope Pius XII; the day coincided with Yugoslavia's
Republic Day. (Stepinac would never go to
Rome to receive the red
hat and titular church.) Yugoslavia then severed diplomatic relations
with the Vatican in October 1953. In 1954, Stepinac received a
rare visit from a Swedish journalist, to whom he said, "I tried to
save, and did save, thousands of lives", and "[a]s for the massacres
in the churches, what could I do?" The government also expelled
the Catholic Faculty of Theology from the University of Zagreb, to
which it was not restored until the first democratic elections were
held in 1990, and was finally formalized in 1996.
Pius XII wrote to Cardinal Stepinac and three other jailed prelates
József Mindszenty and Josef Beran) on 29 June
1956 urging their supporters to remain loyal. Stepinac was unable
to participate in the 1958 Papal conclave due to his house arrest,
despite calls from the
Bishops' Conference of Yugoslavia for his
release. On 2 June 1959 he wrote in a letter to Ivan
Meštrović: "I likely will not live to see the collapse of communism
in the world due to my poor health. But I am absolutely certain of
The 1955 film The Prisoner was loosely based on
József Mindszenty and
to some extent Stepinac. The Cardinal character, played by Alec
Guinness, was made to appear physically similar to Stepinac.
Death and martyrdom controversies
Stained glass in the Church of Virgin Mary of Lourdes in Rijeka
In 1953, Stepinac was diagnosed with polycythemia, a rare blood
disorder involving the excess of red blood cells, causing him to joke
"I am suffering from an excess of reds." On 10 February 1960 at
the age of 61, Stepinac died of a thrombosis.
Pope John XXIII
Pope John XXIII held a
requiem mass for him soon after at St. Peter's Basilica. He was
Zagreb during a service in which the protocols appropriate
to his senior clerical status were, with Tito's permission, fully
Franz König was among those who attended the
funeral. Yugoslav government relations with the Vatican improved
after Stepinac's death, and developed further after the Second Vatican
Council of 1962–65. Diplomatic relations were restored in 1966.
Notwithstanding that Stepinac died peacefully at home, he quickly
became a martyr in the view of his supporters and many other
Catholics. In 1998, traces of arsenic were detected in Stepinac's
bones, leading many to believe he had been poisoned by his
captors. But administration of arsenic along with
bloodletting was a standard treatment for polycythemia in the early
Meštrović did not return to Yugoslavia until 1959 and upon his
return met again with Stepinac, who was then under house arrest.
Meštrović went on to sculpt a bust of Stepinac after his death which
reads: "Archbishop Stepinac was not a man of idle words, but rather,
he actively helped every person─when he was able, and to the extent
he was able. He made no distinctions as to whether a man in need was a
Croat or a Serb, whether he was a Catholic or an Orthodox, whether he
was Christian or non-Christian. All the attacks upon him be they the
product of misinformation, or the product of a clouded mind, cannot
change this fact....".
Glas Koncila published a text on Stepinac taken from
L'Osservatore Romano which resulted in the edition being confiscated
by court decree. Stepinac's beatification process began on
October 9, 1981. The
Catholic Church declared Stepinac a martyr
on November 11, 1997, and on October 3, 1998
Pope John Paul II,
while on pilgrimage to
Marija Bistrica to beatify Stepinac, declared
that Stepinac had indeed been martyred. John Paul had earlier
determined that where a candidate for sainthood had been martyred,
his/her cause could be advanced without the normal requirement for
evidence of a miraculous intercession by the candidate. Accordingly,
he beatified him.
Many non-Catholics have remained unconvinced about Stepinac's
martyrdom and about his saintly qualities in general. The
beatification re-ignited old controversies between
Communism and between
Serbs and Croats. The Jewish community in
Croatia, some members of which had been helped by Stepinac during
World War II, did not oppose his beatification but the Simon
Wiesenthal Center asked for it to be deferred until his wartime
conduct of had been investigated further. The Vatican had no reaction,
Croats expressed irritation.
According to Ljubojević, Gavrilović and Perica, the mythology
regarding Stepinac was created during the
Cold War and newly
Croatia with the cardinal's beatification in 1998. Their
assessment is that this myth positioned Stepinac as the primary
character in Croatian mythology, crediting him as a hero and martyr
who was politically impartial. This myth alleges that Stepinac
resisted all forms of totalitarianism in equal measure. The authors
claim that Stepinac was a much greater opponent of communism than he
was of Nazism and fascism, but his story was used by Croatian
Franjo Tudjman to legitimise Croatian independence and to
bolster the role of the
Catholic Church as a central pillar of
On 14 February 1992, Croatian representative
Vladimir Šeks put forth
a declaration in the Croatian Sabor condemning the court decision and
the process that led to it. The declaration was passed, along
with a similar one about the death of Croatian communist official
Andrija Hebrang. The declaration states that the true reason of
Stepinac's imprisonment was his pointing out many communist crimes and
especially refusing to form a Croatian
Catholic Church in schism with
the Pope. The verdict has not been formally challenged nor overturned
in any court between 1997 and 1999 while it was possible under
Croatian law. In 1998, the
Croatian National Bank
Croatian National Bank released
commemoratives 500 kuna gold and 150 kuna silver coins.
In 2007, the municipality of
Marija Bistrica began on a project called
Stepinac's Path, which would build pilgrimage paths linking places
significant to the cardinal: Krašić, Kaptol in Zagreb, Medvednica,
Marija Bistrica, and Lepoglava. The
Aloysius Stepinac Museum
Zagreb in 2007.
Croatian football international
Dario Šimić wore a T-shirt with
Stepinac's image on it under his jersey during the country's UEFA Euro
2008 game against Poland, which he revealed after the game.
In 2008, a total of 119 streets in
Croatia were named after Alojzije
Stepinac, making him the tenth most common person eponym of streets in
Today, name Alojzije is one of the quite common names (among the top
thousand) in Croatia, with over a thousand namesakes living there. The
name Alojzije was the most popular from years 1932 to 1938. The peak
year was 1938. It was the least popular from years 1970 to 1980.
About 160 people with faimily name Stepinac live in
Croatia today, in
60 households. There were 140 of them in the middle of the past
century, and their number increased by 20 percent. They are located in
6 Croatian counties, in 12 cities and 10 other places, mostly in
Brezaric in Jastrebarsko area (60),
Zagreb (50), Duga Resa (<10),
Krasic in Jastrebarsko area (<10), and in Karlovac (<10).
Nominations to Righteous Among the Nations
A statue of Stepinac in Zagreb
Stepinac was unsuccessfully recommended on two occasions by two
individual Croatian Jews to be added to the list of the Righteous
Among the Nations.
Amiel Shomrony (previously known in
Croatia as Emil
Schwarz), the secretary to the war-time head rabbi Miroslav Šalom
Freiberger, nominated Stepinac in 1970. He was again nominated in 1994
by Igor Primorac. Esther Gitman, a Jew from
Sarajevo living in the USA
who holds a PhD on the subject of the fate of Jews in the Independent
State of Croatia, said that Stepinac did much more for Jews than some
want to admit. However the reason stated by Yad
Vashem for denying the requests were that the proposers were not
themselves Holocaust survivors, which is a
requirement for inclusion in the list; and that maintaining close
links with a genocidal regime at the same time as making humanitarian
interventions would preclude listing.
Although Stepinac's life has been the subject of much writing, there
are very few primary sources for researchers to draw upon, the main
one being the Katolički List, a diocesan weekly journal. Stepinac's
diary, discovered in 1950 (too late to be used in his trial), was
confiscated by the Yugoslav authorities; it currently resides in
Belgrade in the archives of the Federal Ministry of Justice, but only
the extracts quoted by Jakov Blažević, the public prosecutor at
Stepinac's trial, in his memoir Mač a ne Mir are available. Father
Josip Vranković kept a diary from December 1951 to 10 February 1960,
recording what Stepinac related to him each day; that diary was used
by Franciscan Aleksa Benigar to write a biography of Stepinac, but
Benigar refused to share the diary with any other researcher. The
diocesan archives were also made available to Benigar, but no other
The official transcript of Stepinac's trial Suđenje Lisaku, Stepincu
etc. was published in
Zagreb in 1946, but contains substantial
evidence of alteration. Alexander's Triple Myth therefore relies
on the Yugoslav and foreign press—particularly
Vjesnik and Narodne
Novine—as well as Katolički List. All other primary sources
available to researchers only indirectly focus on Stepinac.
Archbishop Stepinac High School
^ According to other sources, there were only eight children.
^ According to one source, Stepinac was awarded the Order of
Karađorđe's Star for his service with the Yugoslav Legion.
^ According to one source, Stepinac stayed in
Zagreb for five years,
studying agriculture and being active in church affairs, including
Catholic youth organisations.
^ According to one source, Stepinac fell in love with Marija and
proposed, but she called the wedding off, saying they didn't belong
together. Another source states that Stepinac called off the
engagement as he had decided to enter the priesthood.
^ a b c d e f g h i Fine 2007, pp. 284–285.
^ Coleman 1991, p. 113.
^ Gruenwald 1987, p. 516.
^ "'Human Rights' at Zagreb". New York Times. 13 October 1946. This
was clearly a political trial... access-date= requires url=
^ Fine 2007, pp. 284–85.
^ a b c d e Alexander 1987.
^ Phayer 2000, p. 182.
^ "History of Blessed Cardinal Stepinac", Blessed Aloysius Stepinac
Croatian Catholic Mission, Chicago, retrieved 4 November 2017
^ a b Bunson, Bunson & Bunson 1999, pp. 90–92.
^ a b "Court Annuls Verdict against Cardinal Stepinac". Total Croatia
News. 22 July 2016.
^ Aleksandar Vlasovic "Serbia,
Croatia trade protest notes over
rehabilitation of Catholic cardinal", REUTERS, July 26, 2016.
^ Kaplan 2014, pp. 17, 19–20.
^ a b c d e Tomasevich 2001, p. 564.
Croatia Under Ante Pavelic: America, the Ustase and Croatian
Genocide, Robert McCormick, I.B. Tauris, London, 2014, pg. 83
^ a b c d e f g h Butler & Burns 1995, p. 263.
^ a b c Gitman 2006, p. 49.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k Ćorić 1998, II.
^ a b c d e f g h Glas Koncila.
^ Ramet 2007, p. 100.
^ Lampe 2004, p. 105.
^ Konig 2005, p. 36.
^ orić 1998, II.
^ a b c d Gitman 2006, p. 50.
^ a b c d Tomasevich 2001, p. 552.
^ a b c West 1995, p. 82.
^ Tomasevich 2001, pp. 24–26.
^ Tomasevich 2001, p. 29.
^ Janjatović 2002, p. 285.
^ Gabelica 2007, p. 75.
^ Gabelica 2007, p. 86.
^ West 1995, pp. 60–61.
^ Tomasevich 2001, pp. 32–33.
^ Žutić 2000, p. 518.
^ Perić 2003, pp. 174–75.
^ Nielsen 2014, pp. 240–41.
^ Tomasevich 2001, p. 15.
^ Zagorac 2006.
^ Čelar 2006.
^ SKAC 2010.
^ a b c West 1995, p. 83.
^ Tomić 1998, p. 67.
^ Horvat 1996, p. 154.
^ Alexander 1987, p. 54.
^ Tanner 1997, p. 135.
^ Žutić 2001, p. 419.
^ Alexander 1987, pp. 26–27.
^ a b c d e Biondich 2007a, p. 40.
^ a b c Biondich 2007a, p. 41.
^ a b c d e Tomasevich 2001, p. 553.
^ Tomasevich 2001, p. 524.
^ Tomasevich 2001, p. 525.
^ Cornwell 2008, p. 265.
^ a b Tomasevich 2001, p. 554.
^ Tomasevich 2001, pp. 553–554.
^ a b West 1995, p. 60.
^ Tanner 1997, p. 145.
^ Starič 2005, p. 33.
^ Roberts 1987, pp. 6–7.
^ Tomasevich 1975, p. 30.
^ Ramet & Lazić 2011, p. 18.
^ Milazzo 1975, pp. 2–3.
^ Schreiber, Stegemann & Vogel 1995, p. 482.
^ a b Tomasevich 2001.
^ U.S. Army 1986, p. 60.
^ a b Tomasevich 1975, p. 33.
^ Tomasevich 1975, p. 34.
^ Ante Pavelic: The Croat Question
^ a b c d Cornwell 2008, p. 253.
^ a b c d e Biondich 2007a, p. 42.
^ a b West 1995, p. 84.
^ Tomasevich 2001, p. 555.
^ a b Tomasevich 2001, p. 370.
^ Tanner 1997, p. 144.
^ Tomasevich 2001, pp. 383–84.
^ a b Phayer, p. 32.
^ Phayer, p. 37.
^ a b c d Biondich 2007a, p. 43.
^ West 1995, pp. 88–89.
^ a b Gilbert 2003, p. 236.
^ Jansen 2003, pp. 87 & 151.
^ Kent 2002, p. 164.
^ Biondich 2007a, p. 58.
^ a b Gitman 2006, p. 51.
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