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The Ustaše (often spelled Ustashi in English; singular Ustaša or Ustasha) were the Croatian nazi/fascist organisation that was put in charge of the so-called Independent State of Croatia by the Axis Powers in 1941 and expelled by the Yugoslav partizans and the Red Army in 1945.

At the time of its founding in 1929, Ustaše were a nationalist political organisation that committed terrorist acts. When they came to power in the WWII they also had military formations some 300,000 strong at peak times (in 1944).

The content of this article is disputed and discussed.

Table of contents
1 Victims
2 History
3 Symbols
4 Ideology
5 Connections with the Catholic Church
6 Neo-Ustašism
7 Bibliography
8 External links


Ustaše with the head of a Serb Orthodox priest,
Drakulići Feb 7,

The Ustaše hated and tried to exterminate Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and basically all others that opposed them (including some Communist Croats, ). Once they came in power during World War II, they founded several concentration camps, most notorious of which was the Jasenovac complex.

Exact numbers of victims are not known, only estimates exist, however it is certain that hundreds of thousands of innocent people were rounded up and killed in concentration camps and outside of them.

According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center:

"Ustasa terrorists killed 500,000 Serbs, expelled 250,000 and forced 250,000 to convert to Catholicism. They murdered thousands of Jews and Gypsies." [1]

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum says:

"Due to differing views and lack of documentation, estimates for the number of Serbian victims in Croatia range widely, from 25,000 to more than one million. The estimated number of Serbs killed in Jasenovac ranges from 25,000 to 700,000. The most reliable figures place the number of Serbs killed by the Ustaša between 330,000 and 390,000, with 45,000 to 52,000 Serbs murdered in Jasenovac." [1]

Concentration camps


After the Kingdom of Yugoslavia banned all national parties in January 1929, the Croatian Party of Rights' militant wing founded the Ustaše movement. Its leaders were Ante Pavelić and Gustav Perčec, but Perčec was later assassinated by Pavelić in 1933.

Ante Pavelić

The origin of their name is in the noun "ustaš" which means "insurgent". Their name didn't have fascist connotations during their early years in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia as it was used throughout Hercegovina to denote (Serb Orthodox) insurgents from the 1875 Hercegovinian rebellion. Later, the name would become acquire its pejorative connotation, particularly among the Hercegovinian Serbs who would be hardest hit by the atrocities.

They came into power when the Axis invaded Yugoslavia. A group of several hundred Ustašas, led by Pavelić himself, infiltrated from Italy and with the help of the foreign armies installed their regime on April 14th 1941. Pavelić was named the head of state, poglavnik (führer).

The Ustaše named their rogue state the "Independent State of Croatia", capitalizing on the Croat people's desire for independence which had been unfulfilled since 1102, and endangered by the Yugoslav royal dictatorship of the last decade and a half. It encompassed today's Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and parts of Serbia (Srem and Sandžak regions). Vladko Maček, the leader of the Croatian Peasants' Party (HSS) which was the most influential party at the time, was placed under house arrest despite having supported Pavelic initially. All who opposed the Ustaše were outlawed, although cooperation between the HSS and the Ustaše is claimed to have lasted well into the war.

As early as June, 1941, rebels started to organize in response to Ustaša atrocities. There were two factions among them: the Partizans, who were guerilla composed of all nations with a common cause to fight the fascists and were mostly led by communists, and Chetniks who were Serb royalist rebels that opposed the Ustašas. The first partisan armed unit was formed on June 22nd in Brezovica near Sisak, and the partisans first engaged in combat on June 27th in Srb in Lika.

Eventually the Red Army and partisans liberated all of Yugoslavia and Ustaše were utterly defeated as well. After the World War II, the remaining Ustaše went underground or fled to foreign countries. All attempts to try to continue the fight for Croatia's independence from Yugoslavia were spoiled by Yugoslav intelligence agencies.


Symbol of Ustaše is a wide capital letter U with pronounced serif. This symbol could easily be spraypainted.

Their hat insignia was the shield of Croatian coat of arms surrounded or embossed with the U.

The Ustaše variant of Nazi greeting "Sieg - Heil" is "Za dom - Spremni":

Greeting: Za dom! For home(land)!
Reply: Spremni! (We are) ready!

The flag of the Independent State of Croatia was a red-blue-white horizontal tricolour with the shield of Croatian coat of arms in the middle and the U in upper left. Its money was the kuna.


The Ustaše embraced the Nazi ideology of the time. They aimed at an ethnically "pure" Croatia, and saw their biggest obstacle as the Serbs that lived in Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina. Thus, Ustaše ministers Mile Budak, Mirko Puk and Milovan Zanic declared in May 1941 that goal of Ustaše is:

  1. One third of the Serbs in the Independent State of Croatia (ISC) to be catholicised
  2. One third of the Serbs to be expelled out of ISC
  3. One third of the Serbs in the ISC to be liquidated

A small problem with Nazi ideology was that the Croats are Slavs, and thus themselves "inferior" by Nazi standards. The Croats thus created a theory about a pseudo-Gothic origin of the Croats in order to raise their standing on the Aryan ladder.

Jews and Serbs who were family members of Ustaše leadership were granted titles of "honorary Aryans". It is known that Ustaše of lesser rank proved their loyalty by killing their Serb wives and children.

Ustaše held that Slavic Muslims are Muslim Croats. Unlike Orthodox Serbs, Muslims were not persecuted by them and some joined in the Ustaše forces and their grim atrocities (see SS Hanjar and SS Kama). The state even transferred a former museum in Zagreb to be used as mosque.

On other subjects, Ustaše were against industrialisation and democracy.

Basic principles

1. The Croatian nation is an independent ethnic and national unit, a nation by itself, and that sense it is not identical with any other nation nor it is a part or a tribe of any other nation.

2. The Croatian nation has its original and historical name, CROAT, under which it came 1300 years ago to its present territory, and under which it lives today. That name cannot and must not be replaced by any other name.

3. The Croatian nation made its present country its homeland already in ancient times, inhabiting it permanently, becoming one with it and giving it the original and natural name CROATIA. That name cannot and must not be replaced by any other name.

4. The land which was occupied in ancient times by the Croatian people, and which became their Croatian homeland, extends over several provinces, many of which had their names even before the arrival of the Croats and some of which were given their names later, but all of them constitute one single Croatian homeland, and therefore nobody has the right to claim for himself any of those provinces.

5. The Croatian people came to their homeland of Croatia as a completely free nation in the time of the Great Migrations, by their own will, thus conquering that land and making it their own forever.

6. The Croatian nation was completely organized when it came to its Croatian homeland, not only in a military sense but also in a familial sense, so that it immediately founded its own state with all of the attributes of statehood.

7. The state of Croatia was already formed when many other nations lived in complete chaos. The Croatian nation preserved its state through the centuries until the end of the World War, and never abandoned it, not by any act or by any legal resolution, nor did it give away its rights to anyone else, but at the end of the World War foreign forces prevented the Croatian people from exercising their sovereign right to form their own CROATIAN STATE.

8. The Croatian nation has the right to revive its sovereign authority in its own Croatian State in its entire national and historical area, that is to say to reconstitute a complete, sovereign and independent Croatian state. This reconstitution may be accomplished by any means, including force of arms.

9. The Croatian nation has the right of happiness and prosperity, and every single Croat has that right as a part of the Croatian nation. Happiness and prosperity can be revived and fulfilled for the nation in general and for individuals as members of the nation only in a complete, sovereign and independent Croatian state which must not and cannot be a component of any other state or any creation of a foreign power.

10. The Croatian nation is sovereign, therefore only it has the right to rule an independent state of Croatia and to manage all state and national affairs.

11. In the Croatian state and in the national affairs of a sovereign and independent state of Croatia no one can make decisions who is not by origin and by blood a member of Croatian nation, and in the same way no other nation or state can decide the destiny of the Croatian people and the Croatian state.

12. The Croatian nation belongs to western culture and to western civilization.

13. The peasantry is not only the foundation and source of life, but it alone constitutes the Croatian nation, and as such it is bearer and agent of all state authority in Croatian state.

14. All classes of the Croatian people constitute one unified whole, defined by their Croatian blood, who can trace back their origins and who maintain a permanent familial connection with the village and the land. In ninety-nine out of a hundred cases someone in Croatia who does not originate from a peasant family is not a Croat at all, but a foreign immigrant.

15. The material and moral wealth of the Croatian state is the property of the people, therefore the people are the only ones authorized to possess and to use it.

16. The essence of the moral strength of the Croatian people is found in an orderly and religious family life; its economic strength is in agriculture, communal life and the natural wealth of the Croatian land; its defensive strength is in its valor, and its educational and cultural progress is based on a natural genius and proven ability in the fields of science and learning. Craftsmanship is the helping hand of the entire peasant economy.

17. Balanced breeding, the promotion and perfection of these virtues and branches of national life is the goal of all public welfare and of state authority as such, because they have guaranteed survival for centuries of existence and will guarantee the prosperity of future generations of the Croatian nation and existence of that security in the independent Croatian state.

Connections with the Catholic Church

Ever since the Great Schism of 1054, the Catholic Church regarded all Catholic Croats and Serbs as Croats and all Orthodox as Serbs and tried to catholicise as many Orthodox believers as possible, either by forcible baptisms or by heading (or forcing) them into Union or Uniatism. (This part is particularly disputed.)

In the 20th century, when most south Slavs became united in Yugoslavia, Pope Benedict XV supported the creation of separate states for the Catholic Croats and Slovenes.

Ustaše held the Orthodox faith as their greatest foe, in fact, they never once recognized the existence of a Serb people on the territories of Croatia or Bosnia (they only recognized Croats of the Eastern faith). Catholic priests among the Ustaše were carrying out forced conversions of Serbs to Catholicism throughout Croatia.

Some priests, mostly Franciscans, particularly in but not limited to Herzegovina and Bosnia, took part in the atrocities themselves; Miroslav Filipović is most prominent of them. (See the list of incriminated Croat Catholic Ustashi clergy.) Some Franciscan monasteries were used as Ustaše bases. (This part is particularly disputed.)

At the same time the Muslims were not looked upon at all negatively, even though they weren't Christians at all.

For the whole duration of the war, the Vatican kept up full diplomatic relations with the Ustaša state, had its papal nuncio in the capital Zagreb and was even briefed on the efforts of conversions. The pogroms were never condemned by the Catholic church. (This part is particularly disputed.)

After the Second World War was over, the Vatican saved the remaining Ustaše by smuggling them to South America through rat lines. This operation was directed by Catholic priest Krunoslav Draganović, Petranović and Dominik Mandić of the Illyrian College of San Girolamo in Rome which to this very day marks April 10th, the birthday of the Ustaša state. Even Pavelić himself spent most of his days peacefully in Argentina, before being hunted down by a Serbian royalist (Chetnik) who wounded him in [Argentina]. He died in Spain in 1959.

It is also claimed that the Ustaša regime had kept 350 million Swiss Francs in gold which it had plundered from Serbian and Jewish property during WW II. About 150 million was seized kept by the British troops however the remaining 200 million reached the Vatican and is allegedly still being kept in the Vatican Bank. The issue was the theme of a class action lawsuit in a California court of law which declined the case claiming a lack of jurisdiction, although some point to pressures from the Vatican. (See external links.)

In 1998 Pope John Paul II beatified Alojzije Stepinac, Archbishop of Zagreb during the Second World War. Stepinac is accused of supporting the Ustaše, organising Ustaše military clergy and exonerating it of complicity in war crimes and atrocities. (This part is particularly disputed.)

On June 22, 2003, John Paul II visited Banja Luka. During the visit he held a mass at Petrićevac monastery and proclaimed beatification of Catholic priest Ivan Merz, the founder of the Croatian Eagles, Ustaše version of Hitlerjugend. (This part is particularly disputed.)

This caused public uproar as on February 6, 1942, in Petrićevac, Ustaše led by Catholic priest Tomislav Filipović brutally massacred 2730 Serbs including 500 children. The same Filipović later became Chief Guard of Jasenovac concentration camp where he was nicknamed "Fra Satan".


In the 1990s, modern independent Croatia was formed and Croats and Serbs again waged war. There was no official connection between the Ustaše ideology and the new government that made the country independent of Yugoslavia. President Tuđman had controversial views on the topic, claiming that the Ustaša state was indeed an expression of Croat state tradition. (This part is particularly disputed.)

Some Ustaša emigrants freely returned to Croatia. Some factions wished to restore the Ustaše ideology and iconography, and even though they weren't successful, they were never banned by the government. During the war, these committed war crimes against the Serb population on several occasions.

The term neo-Ustaše itself is an external designation; those in question referred to themselves simply as Ustaše, as in the 1940s.

The right-wing parties often attracted votes by promoting extreme nationalism. A singer by the name of Miso Kovac, who rose to prominence as an evergreen singer of the 1970s once sported an exact replica of an Ustaša uniform during a concert. Pop/folk singer Marko Perković-Thompson sings borderline fascist lyrics, is not afraid to display his Ustaša sentiment. Supported by the right-wing politicians, his concerts attracted support from tens of thousands of people based on this sentiment.

The exodus of Serbs from Croatia following the 1995 offensive Storm in the Krajina was greeted and in part perpetrated by the neo-Ustaše as if the plan from 1941 was finally getting fully implemented.

The neo-Ustaše, however, didn't and don't have grass roots support among the Croatian people. The right-most parties like the Croatian Party of Rights are most commonly associated with Ustašism and they have support of a few percent of the population. (This part is particularly disputed.)

Dinko Šakić, one of the commanders of the Jasenovac concentration camp, was tried in 1999 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Croatia has been cooperating with the ICTY in the legal prosecution of all war criminals. The government is also making an effort to return all refugees to their homes. (This part is particularly disputed.)


External links