Above: The bottom part of a June 30, 1944, Ustaše document. The signature on the right is that of the Poglavnik of the Independent State of Croatia, Ante Pavelić; on the left is that of the minister of the armed forces, Ante Vokić. Above the date is the Ustaše greeting: For homeland — we are ready!
The Hoover Institution has received a group of original documents of the Poglavnik (head of government) of the Ustaše regime of the Independent State of Croatia, a quasi-protectorate of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. The collection focuses on official appointments and commendations made by the order of Poglavnik Ante Pavelić (1889–1959) and his subordinates.
The Ustaše were members of the Croatian Revolutionary Movement, an ultranationalist, anti-Serb organization that in the pre–World War II period engaged in terrorist activities against the Yugoslav state. When in the spring of 1941 Axis forces attacked and occupied Yugoslavia, a collaborationist Croat government was established in Zagreb under Ante Pavelić, the Poglavnik of the Ustaše. The wartime record of that government was brutal and deadly, with hundreds of thousands of Serbs, as well as tens of thousands of Jews, Roma, and Croatian and Bosniak dissidents killed.
After the February 1943 massive defeat of the Axis forces at Stalingrad, a defeat in which a volunteer Croatian Legion suffered heavy casualties, the tide of the war began to shift. Some members of the Pavelić government began thinking of switching sides in the war, declaring war on Nazi Germany and joining the Western Allies. One of the principal plotters was the minister of the armed forces, Ante Vokić. The poorly planned coup never took place; Vokić and his associates were arrested and imprisoned in August 1944. Vokić spent the rest of the war in prison and was executed on its last day, May 8, 1945. Pavelić fared considerably better. He left Croatia in the final days of the war, moving his troops into Austria where he abandoned them. Most of them would soon be turned over by the British to the hands of Tito’s communist Partisans, who marched them back to Yugoslavia, where tens of thousands of them were either killed or imprisoned in concentration camps. Pavelić and his family moved into the American Occupation Zone where he reported himself to the American intelligence. He was not arrested. For the next three years he lived in Austria and Italy; in late 1948, with the help of former associates and supporters, as well as false identity papers, he arrived in Argentina. He lived in Buenos Aires until 1957, remaining politically active but barely surviving an assassination attempt. Avoiding extradition to Yugoslavia, he moved briefly to Chile and then secretly to Spain, where he died in late 1959.
Perhaps the best companion collection to the Pavelić documents in the Hoover Archives are the papers of Jozo Tomasevich (1908–94), Croatian-American economist and military historian, the author of an unfinished trilogy of the history of Yugoslavia during World War II.
Maciej Siekierski siekierski [at] stanford [dot] edu