Esther Gitman, a U.S. Jewish historian who is an expert on the Holocaust in Yugoslavia specifically focusing on the Nazi-style Independent State of Croatia (NDH), said in Zagreb on Monday that the Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, was a committed servant of the Catholic Church who had never lost his faith into moral laws and who believed that only one race existed — the human race created by the God.
Gitman held a lecture on the topic “Dr. Alojzije Stepinac, the Archbishop of Zagreb on Trial by Tito’s Regime, Historians and the Current Serbian Regime” in Zagreb, with the incumbent Zagreb Archbishop Josip Bozanic, several other prelates as well as numerous priests and ordinary citizens attending the event.
At the beginning of the lecture, organised by Croatian Catholic University in Zagreb, Gitman expressed gratitude to those who had survived the Holocaust and who had acquainted her with Stepinac’s role in rescuing them.
She said that the lecture was the outcome of her extensive research, including the search of Croatia’s archives, Nazi reports in Berlin, diplomatic correspondence and her interviews with 67 survivors in 2002 and 2003 in Zagreb, Israel and the United States.
She also quoted Stepinac’s instruction to priests in 1941 when he told them they they should make it possible for Jewish or Serb Orthodox believers, who were in a life-threatening danger, to be converted to Catholicism only to save their lives, explaining that those conversions had no validity, allowing them to return to their faith once the danger passed.
Gitman provided arguments against the indictment which Yugoslav authorities issued against him immediately after the WW2. The historian refuted allegations from the first count of the indictment regarding the reported collaboration with the Ustasha regime.
Gitman is the author of the book “When Courage Prevailed: The Rescue and Survival of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia 1941-1945”.