by Veljko Djurić Mišina, Director of the Museum of Genocide Victims
A while ago, I had a chance to read some strong words against the Museum of Genocide Victims and myself as its Director on the internet portal of the Dalmatian town of Sinja (www.ferata.hr). Even though the accusations, clearly spurred by hatred, were factually unsupported, I feel they should be responded to. Of course, the retort will be calmer and backed by facts and, therefore, the complete opposite of the aforementioned accusations. So what is this all about?
The Museum of Genocide Victims received a copy of the list of war victims in the territory of Yugoslavia between 1941 and 1945. We felt it was natural and responsible that the list was made public. With that in mind, I decided to publish it on the Museum’s website, in accordance with the legal rights and authorisations. In the accompanying notes, I cited the facts about the list, mentioned its possible defects and errors, noted that it was not final ... thus the Museum of Victims of Genocide waived any responsibility with regards to its contents.
In the ensuing days, we were on the end of a fair amount of criticism and suggestions. They were all acknowledged and entered into the database. I considered, however, that there was no legitimate reason to print these changes and/or publish them on our website. After all, who does that?
In the last two or three decades, there has been a growing interest among the Croatian publicists and historians for the number of war victims, particularly those who died in the territory of the Independent State of Croatia from 1941 to 1945. Predictably, in such plethora of texts and researches, there are as many scientifically and factually supported claims as there are misinformation and straightforward lies. The motive for one such text, which clearly belongs in the latter category, only seems to be banal. Its essence is, however, anything but.
Mr. Ivan Kozlica first had complaints concerning the book Serbs in the Cetina Region by Božidar Simić and Filip Škiljan (published by the Serbian National Council, Zagreb, 2017). Truth be told, he never really discussed the book beyond pages 43, 44 and 45, i.e. the pages about the war victims. Simić and Škiljan included the estimates made by Vladimir Žerjavić as well as Marinko Perić’s census, since they considered those information to be relevant and truthful. I do not wish to discuss why the decided not to metion the 1964 list, especially as I know for sure that at least one of the authors is familiar with the information at our Museum’s disposal.
Mr. Kozlica knows about the 1964 census, by his own confession. Namely, he titled his articleThe Museum of Genocide Victims Belgrade – Forging the Data about the World War II Victims in the Cetina Region.As I said, I felt it was necessary to respond to such accusations.
Says Mr. Kozlica in his article: “...Lastly, the man who runs the Museum of Genocide Victims Belgrade and is its main strategist for inventing and inflating the number of Serbian victims is Veljko Djurić Mišina. We saw that several victims from the Vrlika region were said to be Serbs despite clearly having Croatian surnames. The man who had to know this is Veljko Djurić Mišina himself. Namely, he was born in Kosore, a place in the Vrlika region. If he truly had had honest intentions to “revise” the 1964 census, he would have at least glanced atthe data concerning the region he was born in. But, apparently, he had different motives altogether.”
I will respond to this primarily in the capacity of the Director of the Museum and only then on a personal level, as someone who was born in a Serbian Orthodox family from Kosore. After all, Mr. Kozlica first indictedthe Museum, whereas I only seem to be a colateral damage.
Despite a considerable effort and time I put in, I must admit I have been unable to fathom the purpose of Mr. Kozlica’s article The Real Data about the World War II Victims in the Cetina Region, published on the internet portal www.ferata.hr on 23 November 2017.
First I thought that Mr. Kozlica wanted a bit of self-promotion by correcting and attacking other people’s claims. Having carefully read his text, I concluded that Mr. Kozlica was apt in stoking up the fire with balderdash. He’s clearly zealous and uses his emotions to stoke the fire up, but ultimately he does it with misleading nonsense, balderdash as there is very little substance to anything he says. Sadly, nothing he says serves to get anyone closer to the truth or the exact number of victims. To prove this claim, I will focus primarily on his accusation against me and the 1964 census – the number of World War II victims in Yugoslavia and Cetina region in particular.
Mr. Kozlica must have read the part where the Museum waived any responsibility regarding the accuracy of the census. Instead of correcting any possible mistakes in a calm and composed manner as a (supposedly) qualified historian, he went on to bad-mouth and berate the wrong person. In the aforementioned text, it clearly says who ordered the census, who conducted it, etc...All that does not seem to be enough for Mr. Kozlica! Or maybe that was an intentional oversight? Let me clarify a few more things.
I assume Mr. Kozlica is familiar with the ex-Yugoslavian political vertical. Therefore, he surely knows that the war victims lists were made at the local level by the municipal or republic commissions. Having this fact in mind, it is easy to conclude that the majority of the enumerators in the Cetina region (and also in Vrlika) were, due to the composition of the local population, Croats. They submitted their material to the republic commission, which then forwarded it to the federal commission. Consequently, it is clear that all this material has been preserved and made available to the public.
So if, by any chance, Mr. Kozlicaasked me to help him to, for example, obtain the copies of all the survey sheets filled in by the families in his village, I would do so without thinking. In that case, he would have a clear insight into who the enumerators were, who gave which information and who said what during the enumeration. At that time, he would have been convinced that, in some cases, the relatives of the victims gave false information and the enumerators made the record of what was said. Therefore, one should conclude that every single mistake and inaccuracy is the responsibility of the tellers and enumerators and definitely not of our Museum or myself as its Director!
This way, it seems as if the easiest course of action is to accuse the Serbs of forging the census data, reducing the number of Croatian victims and increasing the number of Serbian victims.
The Museum of Genocide Victims published the excerpts from Miloš Crnomarković's book "The Suffering of the Serbs in Vrlička Krajina 1941-1945"(Yearbook for Genocide Research, No. 8, Belgrade 2016, 111-167). I recommend this material not only to Mr. Kozlica, but also to his colleagues and anyone who, in one way or another, deals with this topic. Despite the data in this book not being final and conclusive, I consider it is worth reading and utilizing in any future research. It could serve to establish, as precisely as possible, the number of Serbs killed by the Ustashi units, the number of Croats killed by Chetnik units and the number of Serbs and Croats killed by Partisan units (which mostly consisted of Croats). Why not? Since we all strive for the truth?
The number of Serbian and Croatian war victims in the Cetina region is very large, especially relative to the number of inhabitants. For countless reasons, primarily political, the exact number may never be determined. It is our duty to strive to get as close to the exact number as humanly possible. However, we do not intend to do it in the manner of Mr. Ivan Kozlica.