History casts a long shadow in the Balkans, which is why Croatia, the European Union’s newest member, is experiencing another war – a ‘war of numbers’. In this war, lies have become so entangled with both the truth and current political events, their toxicity is actually preventing this small country from moving forward, writes Branko Miletic.
These lies have a number of iterations. Lets start with a popular mythological premise of the foundation of Yugoslavia-that the country was a bulwark against Nazism during World War II and Tito’s Partisans managed to hold down 50 German divisions, which helped to fasten Germany’s eventual defeat by depleting German forces needed elsewhere such as on the Russian Front.
This absurd boast is regularly wheeled out by pro-Yugoslav historians, and was even used by the UK’s Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd in 1993 in a vain attempt to justify the now-discredited Vance-Owen Peace Plan for Bosnia.
The truth however, is somewhat less numerically challenged.
According to both official German and US figures, the actual number of German divisions based in Yugoslavia from mid-1941 to April 1945 never exceeded 10 infantry divisions plus three SS divisions – a total of just under 180,000 men.
Put into perspective, the Germans sent 4 million soldiers to fight the Russians, subsequently losing over 1 million men across the Eastern Front.
In other words, while another 180,000 soldiers may have been a temporary welcome boost for the German High Command, considering that after sending 4 million soldiers to fight and sacrificing 1 million of them, the Germans were still unable to defeat the Russians, it is highly doubtful another 180,000 would have had any real impact.
Perpetrators playing the victim
One of the most insidious lies spread by Belgrade is that of the ‘victimhood of the Serbs.’ This started off as an excuse to kill and ethnically-cleanse Croatians and other non-Serb minorities to further realise their dream of a ‘greater Serbia’, however it was quickly reutilised as a propaganda tool.
To this day, some Serb propagandists still talk about the so-called ‘700,000 Serb victims in Croatia’ alone.
Never mind that the official (Yugoslav government) figure for total losses of all nationalities across the whole Balkan country in WWII is actually less than what some Serbs claim were the number just of their own war dead.
For example, in 1964, the official Yugoslav government figure of WWII dead in the entire region of the country known as Yugoslavia presented to the government of West Germany for the purpose of payment of war reparations was:
This was the Communist Yugoslav Government’s official list and as such, the more provable it was, the more likely it was that they would receive reparations from the West Germans.
However, to this day, absurd and spurious claims of 1.7 million dead are still included in textbooks and in so-called “news reports” designed to reinforce anti-Croatian myths through the use of constant cognitive repetition.
What the official records say
According to the official 1948 census of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRJ), the country (at the end of 1947 when the census was taken) had a population of 15, 679,000.
Going back to just prior the Second World War, as of January 1, 1940, the official population of the Royalist Kingdom of Yugoslavia (RKJ) as published in the 1940-41 League of Nations Yearbook, was 15, 596,000.
In other words Yugoslavia’s population actually increased by 83,000 people during the Second World War.
However the pre-WWII figure did not include Istria, the city of Rijeka, the Slovenian Adriatic coast and a number of Dalmatian islands, which at that time were all under Italian occupation.
But these occupied areas, which (according to Italian sources) had a combined population of over 600,000 were part of the 1948 census, so in order to make a true and scientific demographic comparison between the two censuses, the actual population growth figure of 83,000 needs be subtracted off the figure of 600,000 to get the real loss of population.
This then gives a figure of about 517,000 – a number that is relatively close to the official SFRJ figure of about 596,000 that Yugoslavia submitted to the West German government in its bid for war reparations in 1964.
What about the NDH?
In 1966, the Yugoslav League of Communists published a list of WWII dead in the Independent State of Croatia or NDH. That number came to 185,327, a figure that also included 51,534 that died in all NDH-run camps such as Jasenovac between April 10, 1941 and May 8, 1945.
This means that if this figure is subtracted from the total of 596,293 people killed in WWII in Yugoslavia, 410,966 or about 69 per cent were killed outside of the NDH.
This clearly puts into perspective the propaganda and TV-inspired finger wagging by the likes of Wiesenthal Centre head Ephraim Zuroff and a raft of so-called historians and (mainly Leftist) journalists from all over the world.
It also exposes this second tier of professional liars and propagandists for what they really are, and who in some cases are actually paid to perpetuate, reinforce and spread anti-Croatian myths through via the use of the cognitive repetition of falsehoods.
What does this all mean?
If the implications of these lies were not so serious, as was seen by the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990’s, then, much like the false assertion of the “50 German Divisions tied down by the Yugoslav Partisans”, they would remain nothing short of laughable.
But these figures are serious- they are not only a blunt instrument designed to bludgeon the collective Croatian spirit – they are also part and parcel of the lies poisoning Croatian society with a pungent toxicity that feeds into the culture war currently being played out across the country from the media to the universities and right into the heart of the Sabor.
While Croatia’s recent (2016) Minster of Culture, Dr. Zlatko Hasanbegovic has his hands full fending off multiple attacks from the globalised extreme Left, the pro-Yugoslav rent-a-crowd, Belgrade’s Chetnik elite, opportunistic journalists and a raft of other fellow travellers who want their five minutes in the sun, it is irrefutable that winning this ‘war of numbers’ is crucial for the EU’s newest member.
The outcome of this war will determine the future cultural direction of the country, and win or lose, the result will be likely felt not just by Croatia’s 4.25 million citizens, but also the Diaspora and the whole of the Balkans as well.