Co-editors: Seán Mac Mathúna • John Heathcote
Consulting editor: Themistocles Hoetis
Field Correspondent: Allen Hougland


How the Vatican collaborated with fascism in Yugoslavia
Seán Mac Mathúna

Restitution & justice for concentration camp survivors of Serb, Jewish, and Ukrainian background and their relatives  

The International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims

The Vatican and Francisan order are sued in the USA

Vatican accused of war crimes in the Ukraine

Medjugorje in Bosnia - Miracle City or Fraud ?

The Holocaust/O Porrajmos

Roma and the Holocaust

Hitler greets Croatia's wartime leader Ante Pavelic

The Vatican, Croatia and the Nazi Gold

The recent apology by Pope John Paul II holds little weight with the heirs and few elderly survivors of one of the bloodiest chapters in the Roman Catholic Church, the 1941-1945 atrocities by the Croatian Nazis known as the Ustashe. In April 1941, multi-ethnic Yugoslavia fell to the Nazis who wasted no time in installing the fanatical Ante Pavlics Catholic Ustashe in power in Croatia. With the blessing of the Roman Catholic Church and the active participation of clergy, especially Franciscan monks, the Ustashe killed 750,000 Serbs, Jews, and Roma in an orgy of violence that shocked even some of the Germans and revolted their Italian allies.

Holocuast survivors in the USA are now suing to recover hundreds of millions of dollars of property looted by the Croatian Nazis, converted to gold, and held by the Vatican Bank for safekeeping. Rumours had circulated about the fantastic wealth that allowed Croatian war criminals to escape justice and live lives of luxury in South America, Spain, and even California until a June 1998 US State Department report confirmed the story.

In March 2000, Serb and Jewish survivors filed a class action lawsuit in San Francisco Federal Court, California, USA, seeking an accounting from the Vatican Bank and Franciscan Order. While the Vatican Bank has repeatedly denied their involvement, service of the lawsuit on the Franciscan Order took place in Oakland, California on Tuesday, March 15, 2000, appropriately upon a Croatian Franciscan priest, and on the Vatican Bank in Rome on Friday, March 17.

According to Easton & Levy, California lawyers representing victims and their organizations, "the defendants responses will put the Popes apology to the test; will the Vatican continue to hide their past crimes under their cassocks, or face the truth of their past actions in the spirit of John Paul II?" . For information on how to contact Easton & Levy see the end of this article.

In December 1997, delegates from 40 countries gathered at an international conference to consider the origins and the fate of Nazi gold looted from the victims of the Holocaust. One amazing thing happened at the conference - the Croatian delegation managed to make an address without mentioning Ante Pavelic, the head of the wartime quisling regime in Croatia which butchered thousands of Jews, Serbs, and Roma (Gypsies) at the Jasenovac concentration camp - the third biggest such extermination camp in the war. If anything was "holocaust denial" noted the Observer, this was it. Another two observers sat in a guilty silence - Monsignor Giovanni D'Aniello and Father Marcel Chappin, who sat "in perfect silence" for three days. Donald Kenrick, who spoke on behalf of the International Romani Union (on behalf of Roma murdered by the Nazis) accused the Vatican of being a conduit for Nazi gold. The Vatican assisted fascism in many ways - it supported the genocidal regime in wartime Croatia, and it is alleged to have helped the war criminal escape justice.

After the war, the Papal State continued to show it's sympathies towards one of Europe's most bloodthirsty rulers: When Pavelic died in Spain in 1959, he received a special blessing from Pope John XXIII on his deathbed. This for a man whose murderous regime had it's own way of dealing with the so-called "final solution": To "kill a third" of the Jews, Serbs and Roma people of Yugoslavia, "deport a third" to the concentration camps, and "convert a third" to Roman Catholicism. (The Guardian, 18th October 1993). It also helped organise escape routes for other Nazi war criminals out of Europe to Latin America, and crucially for the post-war underground Nazi movement, it provided a means of funneling the stolen Nazi gold bullion into safe banks beyond the reach of the Allies. The Church participated in crimes against humanity and aided and abetted those who carried it out. It is one of the most shameful chapters in the history of the Catholic Church.

Fifty years on we can see that other countries along with Switzerland - that ostensibly were neutral - were in effect, like Sweden, Portugal and Spain, collaborators with the Axis powers, either supplying them with hard currency and military hardware. But top of the list is Switzerland, which gave Hitler's regime crucial financial support to help it's war effort. In late 1999, a report by an independent inquiry, led by the Swiss historian Jean-François Bergier, into Switzerland's wartime history concluded that Swiss officials:

"Helped the Nazi regime achieve its goals" (The Guardian, December 11th, 1999)

It was found that some 300,000 people - many of them Jews - had fled to Switzerland during the war. The inquiry found that at least 24,500 were rejected - that is sent back into the hands of the Nazi's - by the Swiss authorities to certain death in the concentration camps. Most historians believe figure is much higher. This was the inquiry's second report, the first, in 1998, covered Nazi gold transfers to Switzerland, during which is was involved in what has been described as the "greatest economic crime of the century" - the looting by the Nazi's of Europe's gold, including victims of the holocaust in Yugoslavia, and how the Swiss profited from it from banking it, and how they kept it safe for the nazi movement after the war by moving it to either Spain or Portugal and then on to countries such as Argentina. As The Observer noted on 7th December 1997:

"Some of the bullion went via the Vatican and the Iberian dictatorships to Latin America, the destination of choice for Nazis on the run"

A study commissioned by the Swiss government estimated that Swiss banks received about £2 billion in looted gold stolen from the mainly Jewish, Roma and Slavic victims of the Nazi holocaust (The Guardian December 5th 1997). The Papal State has come under heavy pressure to open it's archives. The World Jewish Congress (WJC) released a declassified letter from the US treasury which showed that in 1946, the Americans were told that:

"Money and gold stolen from the Jews and Serbs (in Yugoslavia) were sent to the Vatican" (The Guardian, December 5th 1997).

The funds, stolen by the fascist Ustashe regime in Croatia, was sent through a Vatican "pipeline" to Spain and Argentina. However, US treasury suspected that the funds were still possibly held by the Vatican (The Guardian, December 5th 1997). The Vatican secretly worked with the fascism, notably supporting the puppet Nazi regime in Croatia, and crucially, it helped leading war criminals escape justice at the end of the war. Furthermore, evidence has at last confirmed the involvement of the Vatican in hiding gold looted by the Ustashe regime in Croatia. Although the Vatican denies these claims, a recently revealed US intelligence report from 1946 showed that that Britain had impounded and kept gold coins worth 150m Swiss francs. This money had been looted from holocaust victims in Yugoslavia, who been murdered by the Ustashe regime. The post-war Labour Government in Britain also seized frozen bank accounts belonging to Holocaust victims. The government told banks to hand over the money instead of returning it to individuals. Some of this money was used to compensate British companies for their wartime losses or to newly liberated countries not indebted to Britain. Some money was also confiscated in lieu of payments for governments in debt to Britain.(The Guardian, 4th December 1997).

The WJC also produced other declassified US documents which it said, proved the Allies knew 55 tons of Nazi gold - worth about £400 million today - was mixed with gold taken from the central banks of Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria. Instead of separating the two classes of gold, the Tripartite Gold Commission (TGC) - administered by the US, France and Britain - decided to give it all to the central banks of Europe. The TGC itself, still holds 5.5 tons of suspected Nazi gold, which strangely for the last 50 years has not been distributed to holocaust victims (The Guardian, 4th December 1997).

Altogether, the British government ended up with 350m francs' worth of gold seized from the Croat's after the war. The rest, the report says, was given to the Vatican for "safe-keeping". It's alleged, that later the British government impounded it's share, leaving the Vatican 200m Swiss francs. In turn, the Vatican set up a "smokescreen", pretending to forward the gold to Franco's fascist regime in Spain, and then onto Argentina. Under the dictator Juan Peron and his wife Evita, Argentina became a safehaven for other escaped Nazi war criminals such as Klaus Barbie, Adolph Eichmann, and Joseph Mengele. (The Guardian, 23rd July 1997).

Similar allegations had already been made by Yallop about the Vatican. During the war, an SS Oberleutnant called Licio Gelli was said to have derived his wealth from his presence in the Italian town of Cattaro, where the seized national treasures of Yugoslavia were hidden. A significant portion of these were never returned to Yugoslavia "but were stolen by Gelli". Furthermore, as the war ended, and with the help of the Vatican, he organised the aptly named "Rat-lines" to get Nazi war criminals to South America - for a fee of 40%. Helped by notorious pro-Nazi Catholic priest from Croatia, Father Krujoslav Dragonovic, he helped Klaus Barbie, the "Butcher of Lyon" escape, with his costs borne by the US Counter Intelligence Corps.

During the 1960's, Gelli formed the sinister P2 lodge of Freemasons in Italy. In Argentina, he became a close confident of Peron, and by 1972, had become Argentina's economic adviser to Italy, and later, it's honorary Counsel. He is believed to have been a central figure in the acts of political violence that destabilised Italy from the late sixties to the early eighties, as well P2's involvement in the collapse of the Vatican Bank, according to Yallop (In God's Name. David Yallop, Corgi Books, Britain, 1984. Pp 173&endash;75).

Details of the disappearance of Yugoslavia's gold was also raised in 1991 in Rat Lines by Mark Aarons and John Loftus. They say 400 kilos of gold - which was the property of Yugoslavia and worth millions of dollars, - and "a considerable amount of foreign currency", was secretly taken to Wolfsburg in Austria, under the control of a Ustashe minister, Lovro Susic. The Croats were apparently warned that the British "would seize the gold" so they asked Dragonovic to help: he was "only willing to oblige", and immediately smuggled 40 kilos of gold to Rome concealed in two packing cases. (Rat Lines, Mark Aarons and John Loftus, Mandarin, London, England, 1991, Pp 122&endash;125).

The Vatican not only hoarded the gold the Croats looted, it also helped them escape - with a nod and wink from the OSS and MI6. In 1986 for example, the US government released documents that revealed the Vatican had organised Pavelic's safe-flight from Europe to Argentina, along with 200 senior officials of his regime. During their escape, they had hidden "frequently in cloisters" in Catholic churches and in many instances, had "disguised themselves as Franciscan monks", according to Vladimar Dedijer , writing in The Yugoslav Auschwitz (Ahriman-Verlag, Freiburg, Germany, 1988, p53).

According to most accepted accounts, some 750,000 Serbs, 60,000 Jews and 26,000 Roma (Gypsy) people were slaughtered by Ante Pavelic's openly pro-Vatican regime in Croatia (The Yugoslav Auschwitz and the Vatican, p30). Dedijer writes that "the highest dignitaries in the Roman Catholic Church gave their blessing to Ante Pavelic at a time when the so-called state of Croatia was proclaimed - at a time when the Yugoslav state and it's army still existed". Clerics working for the Ustashe regime took part in shocking war crimes in Yugoslavia, notably participating in the genocide at Jasenovac concentration camp, where 200,000 people were systematically murdered. For example, at one point, a Franciscan monk was camp commandant of what the second largest concentration camp of the war.

At the Nazi gold conference, Donal Kenrick of the International Romani Union said that £1 million of gold coins and personal belongings that had been stolen from 28,000 Roma people killed by the Ustashe regime, ended up in the Vatican (The Guardian, 4th December 1997). Thus, from this conference alone, we know that the Vatican helped steal money from victims of the holocaust. Perhaps it is because of this, that it made no representations at the conference - it's archives anyway are presently closed until 2045.

The Vatican was further implicated in August 1997 when newly discovered documents in the US national archives show that the Vatican engaged itself in potentially illegal transactions with Nazi Germany and it's axis partners during the war. The archives show that the Vatican Bank (known as the Institute for Religious Works) used Swiss banking middlemen on at at least 3 occasions to obtain money from the Reichsbank or to transfer funds to a bank blacklisted by the allies for it's dealings with Nazi Germany. (The Guardian, 4th August 1997).

The Vatican and Francisan order are sued in the USA

In January 2000, it was announced that Thomas Easton and Jonathan Levy, lawyers in San Francisco, USA had filed a lawsuit against the Vatican and the Fransican Order for complicity in war crimes in Yugoslavia during the Second World War. The press release from the firm states:

"More than 700,000, Serbs, Jews, Roma and former Soviet Union citizens were murdered by the Nazi puppet regime of Croatia during World War II. The Croatian Nazis, known as the Ustasha, burned villages and churches, operated slave labor and concentration camps, and committed atrocities that shocked even hardened German observers. In a scenario shockingly similar to today's Yugoslavia, genocide wascommitted to cleanse Greater Croatia of non-Roman Catholics. Hundreds of millions of dollars of gold, property, and money was looted by the Ustasha from their victims"

In November 1999, California attorneys Jon Levy and Tom Easton filed the original Complaint in San Francisco. On January 20, 2000 Easton and Levy filed an amended class action law suit. The suit names the Vatican Bank, Franciscan Order and other unidentified Swiss, Austrian, Argentine, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, and American banking institutions as defendants. The suit seeks an accounting of the gold and money and ultimately, restitution for the victims and their families.

The Ustasha Treasury with the connivance of the Vatican and other banks was laundered in 1944-45 and used to assist the top Croatian war criminals evade justice. Ante Pavelic, known as the "Butcher of the Balkans" and leader of Nazi Croatia was given refuge by the Vatican and later escaped to Argentina. The whereabouts of the Croatian "blood" money was a dark mystery, however in 1998 the US State Department demanded the Vatican account for the loot. Despite numerous requests from governments and Holocaust victims, the Vatican Bank and Holy See have refused to open their wartime archives.

The original plaintiffs, four Ukrainian and Jewish concentration camp survivors and two organizations representing over 300,000 Holocaust survivors are now joined by plaintiff Vladimir Brodich of Arizona, who was 9 years old in 1941 when they took away and shot his father and brother and gang raped his sister, by plaintiff William Dorich of California, who lost 17 relatives when the Ustasha burnt alive 45 Serbian victims in the Orthodox Serbian Church in Vojinic, and plaintiff Igor Najfeld of Vermont, who was born June 28, 1944, the day his two physician parents escaped from slave labor in Bosnia to join the Tito partisans, and whose mother had 56 relatives killed by the Ustasha, some in the infamous Jasenovac extermination camp.

The Jasenovac Research Institute of Birmingham, Mississippi has also joined with the effort to force the Vatican to open its archives and reveal the truth of the "hidden holocaust" of World War Two. Restitution could reach hundreds of millions of dollars which would be distributed to the tens of thousands victims of the Ustasha Regime and their descendants.

On 19 January 2000 the Jasenovac Research Institute joined seven Serbian, Jewish and Ukrainian Holocaust victims in a class action lawsuit against the Vatican Bank, the Franciscan Order and several unnamed Austrian, Swiss, Argentine and other banking institutions. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, seeks restitution of several hundred millions of dollars in looted property and assets taken in World War II Croatia by the clerical-fascist Croatian Nazi regime which the suit charges was subsequently deposited in the Vatican Bank and other institutions. The original lawsuit was filed by U.S. attorneys Tom Easton and Jonathan Levy on 15 November 1999 in the San Francisco U.S. District Court on behalf of four Jewish and Ukrainian Holocaust victims. On 21 January 2000 the class action lawsuit was amended and re-filed to include the Jasenovac Research Institute, a non-profit organization committed to the study of the Holocaust in Yugoslavia, and three additional individuals as class-representative plaintiffs:

  • Vladimir Brodich, a Serbian-American currently living in Arizona, whose family was dispossessed and murdered in wartime Croatia;
  • William Dorich, a Serbian-American living in California who lost seventeen members of his family in the town of Vojinich;
  • Igor Najfeld, a Yugoslav Jew currently living in Vermont but born in wartime Croatia. Dr. Najfeld's family's business and property was stolen by the Croatian State authorities and fifty-six members of the Najfeld's family were slaughtered in the Croatian death-camp complex known as Jasenovac.

Following the Nazi invasion and dismemberment of Yugoslavia in April 1941, the Independent State of Croatia was established as a clerical-fascist state under the rule of the Croatian fascist party, the Ustashe. Some 700,000 Serbs, Jews, Romas and other anti-fascists were killed in the Jasenovac death-camp complex, while many more were killed in smaller camps or in local massacres. While the Ustashe regime set about to racially exterminate all Serbs, Jews and Romas living within its borders, it also carried out a systematic policy of plundering the assets of these three nationalities. These looted assets, the property of millions of people, were never recovered. The bulk of it was smuggled out of Croatia at the end of the war to the Vatican, and from there to still other destinations.

There is no statute of limitations for claims against these crimes. There are two reasons for this: the 1968 international convention regarding the non-applicability of statutes of limitation for war crimes, and the concealment of vital information regarding the culpability of the accused parties in these crimes. Another law firm, Zimmerman and Reed, has filed a similar lawsuit seeking restitution for Holocaust victims from Yugoslavia on 27 January 2000 in Minneapolis. It is expected that still other law firms will join these two suits or file additional suits in the coming months. The JRI will offer its support to all such efforts and encourage others to do the same.

The lawsuit which the JRI has joined is based on evidence contained in recently declassified government documents from the United States, Britain and Argentina. Several of the declassified U.S. military intelligence reports obtained by the JRI clearly state that the majority of these looted assets was deposited in the Vatican "for safe-keeping." The June 1998 U.S. State Department "Supplement" to its 1997 Report on "Nazi Gold" contains a crucial chapter documenting the Vatican's role in the transfer of stolen assets entitled "The Fate of the Wartime Ustasha Treasury." Still newer reports are to be released in the coming months, including one from Argentina expected to detail the transfer of millions of dollars in gold from the Vatican to Argentina as payment for the emigration of Croatian Ustashe and other Nazi war criminals.

According to the most recent estimates, the total amount of stolen assets transferred out of Croatia by the Ustashe at the end of the war was at least $250 million. Based on conversion tables provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this would now be worth $2.325 billion in December 1999 dollars. It is the position of the Jasenovac Research Institute that this entire amount plus interest must be paid to the remaining Survivors and their heirs, and to the heirs of all victims of the Ustashe genocide. This amount would only be a partial accounting for the crimes of genocide committed in wartime Yugoslavia by the Ustashe and other fascist forces; however it would provide the initial foundations for better relations in the future for the peoples of the region.

Several new plaintiffs have stepped forward since the re-filing to ask to be added to the suit. Among them is Eva Deutsch-Costabel, a Yugoslav Jew born in Zagreb and currently living in New York whose family's two businesses and home were stolen by the Ustashe regime and whose father was arrested and murdered.

U.S. attorneys Easton and Levy are seeking additional plaintiffs for the case. To be added as a plaintiff to the lawsuit one needs to be either a Survivor of the Ustashe regime or a relative or heir of a victim of Ustashe crimes. If you are such an individual and you wish to become a plaintiff, or if you have vital information regarding this case, you are encouraged to contact either the Jasenovac Research Institute or the law firm of Thomas Easton at 707-464-4513 or The Jasenovac Research Institute urges everyone who is concerned with the search for justice for the victims of the Ustashe Holocaust to help us in our efforts to achieve a successful outcome of this historically important case.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco: No.C99-4941MMC by the Law Office of Thomas Dewey Easton and Jonathan H. Levy. PO Box 6080, Cincinnati OH 45206, USA (