War (Continued)

Could I only claim that we did not care about what was going on around us, oh no! - we cared a good deal; we were concerned about the fate of peoples who one by one became the victims of Nazism, we criticized the weakness of the Western democracies, their inability to put an end to Hitler's ferocities. When their blindness was cured as well as ours it was too late to prevent the disaster. Churchill, the genius of the Second World War, had a long time ago predicted the catastrophe and urged a change of policy, but his voice echoed in the desert until he was finally elected. He writes: Now at last the slowly-gathered, long-pent-up fury of the storm broke upon us. Four or five millions of men met each other in the first shock of the most merciless of all the wars of which record has been kept. Within a week the front in France, behind which we had been accustomed to dwell through the long years of the former war and the opening phase of this, was to be irretrievably broken. Within three weeks the long-famed French Army was to collapse in rout and ruin, and the British Army to be hurled into the sea with all its equipment lost. Within six weeks we were to find ourselves alone, almost disarmed, with triumphant Germany and Italy at our throats, with the whole of Europe in Hitler's power, and Japan glowering on the other side of the globe. It was amid these facts and looming prospects that I entered upon my duties as Prime Minister and Minister of Defence... 13 After the war whose road was long, hard and perilous, Churchill could write: Five years later almost to a day it was possible to take a more favorable view of our circumstances. Italy was conquered and Mussolini slain. The mighty German Army surrendered unconditionally. Hitler had committed suicide. In addition to the immense captures by General Eisenhower, nearly three million German soldiers were taken prisoners in twenty-four hours by Field-Marshal Alexander in Italy and Field-Marshal Montgomery in Germany. France was liberated, rallied, and revived. Hand in hand with our allies, the two mightiest empires in the world, we advanced to the swift annihilation of Japanese resistance. The contrast was certainly remarkable. 14 At the cost of how many victims was this victory achieved! Churchill had no doubts, 'I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat' 15 but he knew his goal: You ask, What is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, What is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory - victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror; victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival. 16 The price was tremendous. In spring 1940, Hitler violated the neutrality of Belgium and Holland, marched to France, whose resistance was so meek that after three weeks at the end of June 1940, Hitler was in Paris, ready to attack Britain. After several unsuccessful attempts to invade the British Isles, Hitler started with air raids, unheard of till then in the history of wars. Churchill writes: 'From September 7 to November 3 an average of two hundred German bombers attacked London every night. 17 The scale of events grew larger every day. Mussolini waged a permanent war in Africa; the Middle East and the Mediterranean area were lost to the Western powers. Soon the whole of Europe and part of Asia belonged to the enemy, Hitler's hysterically anti-Semitic speeches resounded over the continents; hatred against Jews increased; the world was burning but we did not move until the flames reached our homes. Over and again the same thoughts cross my mind, why didn't we move? It is difficult, almost impossible to understand our passivity, our reluctance to resist the avoidable, to make a movement towards safety, to confront human madness with reasonable actions. Had we been detached from the world, idiots, primitive or illiterate fools, we could be pardoned - but following daily press, radio, speeches and comments, our behaviour is incomprehensible. We knew that concentrations camps like Dachau were hell on earth, we knew about the suffering of Jews from residents who fled fiom Germany and Austria. I remember well my mother's words every time she listened to one of Hitler's speeches: "Ja neznam za to, ali ja se stra no bojim!" ('I don't know why, but I am terribly scared!') Did she and the majority of the Jews believe in miracles? There was no Moses to save his people; every one had to protect his own safety. Where did the God of Abraham hide, the God who once so generously saved Isaac's innocence? The same God knew that we were innocent. The tale that follows is as sad as it is true, and although it happened to me as well as to European Jews in general and to the Jews in Yugoslavia and Croatia in particular, each family and every survivor is burdened with his own memories so mournful and gloomy that tears shed through centuries would not be sufficient to bewail their fate. Jews were, of course, not the only target; other minorities suffered. Serbs were executed in masses, Communists hanged and concentration camps were filled with innocent people. The years of 1939 and 1940 were ones of great suffering; worse were to follow. With the utmost effort I will try to portray the dramatic events which occurred in the following year, 1941 - the most fateful year in my life in which I lost the greatest treasures I ever possessed. Had I then known the truth, I doubt I could have survived. I believed in what I wanted to hear and for a long time hoped that the worst had not happened. I would prefer to remain silent about events which caused me unutterable feelings of sorrow and pain which in my thoughts I would like to share only with those for whom I mourn. Yet I feel that it is my duty to tell about them; it is an obligation I owe to my dearest children who are actually the compensation for my irreparable loss. Thus I open the wounds to bleed again and burn, to burn more when covered by those salted drops that we call tears, those tears that at the same time heal us. Table of Contents The Fall of Yugoslavia