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Non-violent resistance Religious actors

“I sow peace, console the sorrowful, encourage the weary.”

The proclamation of the Independent State of Croatia on 10 April 10, 1941, resulted in the marginalization of certain ethnic and national communities, as well as unwanted political groups, primarily the communists. The main targets of the Ustasha authorities were mostly Serbs and Jews. In the first months following the proclamation, particularly in early summer 1941, the first Ustasha crimes were recorded. Ljubomir Kvaternik was appointed as the leader of the Greater County of Krbava and Psat, headquartered in Bihać, in the second half of June 1941. His arrival marked the beginning of open terror against local Serbs and Jews.

 

The new circumstances faced by the local population, including Franciscans like Fra Bosiljko Ljevar, Fra Viktor Šakić, and Fra Marijan Jakovljević demanded their public engagement. Although they initially welcomed the news of the new state’s proclamation in April with joy,  as time went on, especially after the arrival of Ljubomir Kvaternik in the city, they began to change their views.

 

Upon Ljubomir Kvaternik’s order on 24 June 1941, Jewish and Serbian families in Bihać and its surroundings were commanded to be ready to depart within one hour. Just a few days before Kvaternik decided to expel all Serbs and Jews from the city, Catholic priest Fra Viktor Šakić printed certificates stating the conversion of Serbs to Catholicism, which was supposed to ensure equal rights for them, like all other ethnic and national communities in the city. However, Šakić’s printed certificates were not of much help, and on that day, all Serbs and Jews were expelled from the city. Fra Bosiljko Ljevar, who witnessed this event, later recalled that his assistance to the Jewish professor Geon, who asked Ljevar for a piece of bread for his son, was particularly touching.

 

Despite their efforts in the following months to save as many Orthodox Christians as possible by printing certificates of conversion to Catholicism, especially by Fra Marijan Jakovljević, it did not help much. When the crimes reached their peak in August 1941, Fra Bosiljko Ljevar and Fra Viktor Šakić went to Kvaternik’s office and urgently demanded the crimes to be stopped. However, Kvaternik threw them out of the office. Fra Viktor Šakić decided to travel directly to Ante Pavelić, the leader of the Independent State of Croatia, in September 1941, and pleaded for Kvaternik’s removal. Shortly after this visit by Šakić to Zagreb, Ljubomir Kvaternik was removed from the position of leader. This action reduced the intensity of crimes in the city and its surroundings.

 

In the 1970s, Fra Bosiljko Ljevar was awarded the Plaque of the City of Bihać for his merits in World War II and his outspoken condemnation, suffering, and persecution of Serbs, as well as for their protection.

 

Dino Dupanović

Sources / Further reading
  • Bihać u novijoj istoriji, vol I and II, Institut za istoriju u Banja Luci, Banja Luka, 1987.
  • Archive of the Petrićevac Monastery: Autobiographical writings by Fra Bosiljko Ljevar. Jakovljević–Cazin Frontier (1941-1943)
  • Fra Jurica Šalić, Franjevci sjeverozapadne Bosne, HNK Napredak Bihać, Bihać, 2002.

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