Alexander Korb: Im Schatten des Weltkriegs
Diese Arbeit wurde mit dem Herbert-Steiner-Preis 2012 ausgezeichnet.
This dissertation deals with what the Germans and Italians transformed into the "Independent Croatia" governed by the fascist Ustasha movement. Croatia was one of the most multiethnic entities in Hitler’s Europe, and the Ustasha aimed to transform this space into am ethnically homogeneous nation state, soon causing a very complex ethnic civil war that involved the death of 500,000 people. The international setting further complicates the picture: Croatia was nominally an independent state, but it was divided in a German and an Italian zone of occupation.
Traditionally, there were two ways of interpreting Ustasha genocide. On the one hand, the movement was seen a German puppet, with their agency being neglected and their violence being portrayed as the consequence of Nazi policies. On the other hand, the movement was portrayed as monstrous, with claims that that their members took great joy in persecuting Serbs and Jews. Both interpretations, puppets and monsters, are challenged in this dissertation, as they stop before actually trying to identify reasons why members of a nationalistic organization start using violence.
In the dissertation, I examined the violence inflicted by the Ustasha against Serbs, Jews, and Roma on a national and regional level.The study is chiefly interested in how and why mass violence evolves, when it accelerates, and how it slows down. After introducing the Ustasha, their ideology and their plans, as well as their relation to other forces in the region, namely the Germans and the Italians, the study examines three major levels of violence: (1) Projects of ethnic homogenization, (2) massacres as part of the civil war and (3) mass violence within camps.
My findings lead to three major arguments. First, the Ustasha were by no means just a German puppet, as they were very committed agents of their own interests, skilfully playing Germans and Italians off against each other, and gaining a large amount of independence by inflicting a civil war beyond outside control. Second, the genocides committed against Serbs, Jews, and Roma were very much intertwined, and it is not possible to understand the persecution of the Jews, without analyzing the radicalization of anti-Serbian policies. Third, it is very often the micro-regional context, local warlordism, the geography, but also other factors, for instance whether the crops were close to being harvested or not, that played a significant role.
Studying wartime Croatia helps to complicate the picture of the Holocaust because they show the local variations of what is all too often perceived as a monolithic event.